Experienced Leadership. Fresh Perspective.
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- I. Introduction
- II. Respecting our Rural and Urban harmony
- III. Community and Social Services
- IV. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Indigenous relations
- V. Emergency Services
- VI.Police Services
- VII. Climate Change
- VIII.Public Transit, Trails, Bike Lanes and Roads
- IX. Economic Development
- X. Provincial and Federal Government Relations
- XI. Heritage and Arts
- XII. Finances and Budget
- XIII. Corporate Governance
- XIV. Community Outreach
- XV. Term limits
- XVI. And the community conversation continues …
I am asking for your support and to elect me as Regional Councillor in the upcoming municipal election.
Our community, like many across the country, is in crisis. Inflationary pressures, impacted by rising gas prices and supply chain issues, are going to result in a variety of challenges due to increasing labour costs, capital costs, the costs to deliver current and expanded social services, assisting the homeless and more affordable housing options, to name a few items. The times require experienced municipal leadership, to help work with fellow councillors and staff, to guide Region of Waterloo through the unprecedented, troubled times ahead. The solutions will take vision, creativity and commitment to ensuring that Waterloo Region continues to grow, remain prosperous, and that prosperity is shared by all in our community.
Coming out of the pandemic, we are entering into a uncharted waters. We, like many communities across the province and across the country, will face crises on several fronts. Socially and economically, we are going to experience tremendous pressures on our ability to react to issues in our community, in the face of these troubling economic and inflationary pressures. As a community we face tremendous pressure due to rising inflation and gas prices, food insecurity, and global political uncertainty that ripples through to our local government and into your homes.
There will be difficult municipal decisions ahead with respect to labour costs, costs for operations, in particular gas costs, construction costs and social service expenditures. I want to be at the horseshoe to work with fellow councillors, and staff, to find a Waterloo Region solution to these issues, to meet the challenges head on and provide people with the opportunity to improve their circumstances. I want to work to ensure no one in Waterloo Region is left behind. The times ahead will make budgeting very difficult. There will be a lot of pressures to preserve current expenditures, and likely a loud call for cuts. It is during difficult times like this that we need to develop budget strategies that minimize the impacts of these pressures and find way to maintain and increase social service support.
During my last term on Regional Council, I was part of a team that supported and obtained additional funding for discretionary benefits, while we were dealing with provincial cutbacks that placed an undue burden on the most vulnerable in our community. We are about to see that again. I want to bring my experience as a former Mayor and Regional Councillor, working with fellow regional councillors and staff, to ensure that Waterloo Region continues to grow, develop, and maintain our supports for the most vulnerable in our community. I also believe, in addition to my previous experience as mayor and councillor, that my experience as a lawyer, advocating for those that are injured and disabled, will be a benefit to fulfilling my role as a Regional Councillor.
I know that I have the experience and proven ability to fulfill the role of Regional Councillor and to provide good governance on behalf of the people of Kitchener and Waterloo Region.
Waterloo Region has emerged as a leader in Ontario. We are a prosperous and growing community, diverse socially and economically. We have a strong tech sector throughout the region, well regarded colleges and universities, prosperous farms and busy factories and a thriving commercial sector. We are fortunate to have many talented people living here. Our strengths lie in our ability to collaborate on issues working together to find “Waterloo Region” solutions to our challenges. We need to continue to harness that strength to deal with issues, made more difficult coming out of the pandemic, to allow us to continue moving forward, positively, in the 21st century.
Many people in Waterloo Region have benefitted from our prosperity and their lives have improved, however some have not. We need to find new ways to allow more people to ride the tide and rise up.
We must continue to work collaboratively between the two tiers of our municipal government, as well as with all interested groups in our community, who want to be part of the conversation – the tech community, business, social services, multi-cultural groups, active transportation, special interests, arts, heritage, and development, to name a few. Our future success depends on establishing positive links with community groups and finding common goals and action plans to achieve those goals. Through this process we can ensure the best opportunities for community success and creating prosperity for the greatest number of people. Openness, transparency and communication are key elements of effective, community-based, governance.
It’s about widespread collaboration. It’s about the recognition that we can always do things better. It’s not about criticism, focussing on past mistakes or dwelling on prior successes. We learn from our experiences good and bad, and we must now focus our sights on the future. It’s important to continue to work towards prosperity, focussing on inclusion, and to make life better for as many people in our community as possible. We need to move forward together, positively.
Municipal government must play a powerful role in harnessing the strength of the community through collaboration helping build connections within the community, improving communication to the community, user groups, and all residents of the Region.
The Region needs to be proactive providing the community with the framework to support our diverse population and to provide them with the opportunity to participate in Regional dialogue and fulfill their potential. We need open, honest and transparent dialogue at all times.
It’s said that a rising tide raises all boats, but not everyone in the community has a boat. As a Regional Councillor, I want to see the quality of life in Waterloo Region improve, in some way, for as many people as possible. Let’s create lifeboats for those who don’t have a boat. The sharing of our prosperity can take different forms:
- Growth opportunities for manufacturers and tech companies within our region
- Improved emergency medical services in rural areas
- Space for encampments with access to facilities and associated social services
- More connected and protected bike lanes
- More timely access to affordable housing
- Safer places for those with drug addictions to continue to use and seek help
- More housing available for refugee families
- The arts community having more sustainable opportunities for growth and creativity
- Continuing improved and expanded access to discretionary benefits for those in need
At the end of my time as a regional councillor, I want the Region of Waterloo to be a stronger place with more people benefiting from our prosperity because of the work and programs we develop and implement together.
To achieve the type of change that I am talking about, I need your help. On Election Day, October 24. I ask for your support, and your vote, and let’s start on the road to achieving greater prosperity and success for more people in our community.
The following is not a complete list of policy issues, but a general overview for discussion and a framework from which to develop our future community plan. As the campaign progresses, and my community dialogue expands, I will be making additions and, at times, changes to this information. Through the discussions and the debates, I know that I will learn more about the community, its aspirations and needs, and together those discussions will lead to action plans that should be given a fair opportunity for consideration. I will always be open and transparent in my approach when dealing with community issues and concerns and strive to be a positive communicator and listener.
Respecting our Rural and Urban harmony
Our rural urban harmony is a unique feature of Waterloo Region. Protection of the countryside line, and intensification in the cities is a testament to the foresight and planning of our local current government leaders and past councils.
We need to continue to promote intensification not only along the ION, but also into established neighbourhoods. There is the “missing middle” and we need to encourage intensification that promotes and complements existing neighbourhoods and promotes some intensification. It is a reality of our times that we will have to accept. There will be local neighbourhood concerns and those will have to be balanced with the greater goal of providing more needed housing opportunities in our community. We must prevent the continuing high rate of loss of farmland for urban sprawl. Preservation of farmland is crucial for our survival on many levels. There are many opportunities through intensification that we have not fully developed, and we do not have to commit large swaths of land for massive expansion of our suburbs.
Along with the development of more housing options through intensification, we also have to continue to improve transit options, including expanded routes as feeder routes for the ION, and increased frequency.
We also need to continue to promote a high speed rail system. Traditionally, the focus has been on a rail system extending from Windsor to Montreal. As a starting point, we need to lobby the provincial and federal governments to consider starting with high speed rail from Waterloo Region to Montreal.
My vision includes:
- Continued protection of the greenbelt and our country-side line.
- Support for increased intensification around the ION route and stations, and also within established neighbourhoods.
- Improved transit between cities including high speed transit between Waterloo Region and Montreal.
- Limiting the amount of farmland sought for countryside expansion by developers.
- Supporting a moratorium on the expansion of gravel pits.
- Support for the proposed Regional Official Plan. The plan is innovative and visionary. It promotes 15-minute neighbourhoods and more missing middle housing. We have a large inventory of existing land for greenfield homes. The plan places an emphasis on intensification over more urban sprawl and protects our countryside line.
Community and Social Services
Waterloo Region is a leader in providing community services. The list of services provided by the Region is long and our service delivery standards are high. We are fortunate to have a strong grassroots presence in provision of social and community services to the most vulnerable in our region. The Region has been able to work effectively with our community advocates and service providers to enhance the level of service provided to the community. Improving the social conditions for those facing difficulties – economic, health, emotional – not only helps the individuals and families, but provides a tremendous positive benefit for our entire community.
Discretionary benefits are an example of the Region’s leadership in aiding those less fortunate in our community. During my prior term on Regional Council, I supported the unprecedented support that the Region of Waterloo stepped in to provide when the province downloaded those responsibilities to the municipalities but reduced the financial support. Despite our significant efforts, we know more needs to be done. The question is how can we achieve more? We need to continue extensive community dialogue to seek out effective proven solutions for our ongoing community need. The Consumption and Treatment Site (CTS) dialogue, while difficult, is an example of the type of ongoing community consultation that must happen to arrive at a solution to this very serious social and public health issue. We need to ensure that communication lines are open at all levels. We need to listen; we need to demonstrate to stakeholders that they are being heard and that their contribution matters. We need to provide those who are interested with multiple opportunities and ways to join in the community conversation. We’ve heard from many voices on both sides of the issue; we must respect those voices, understand their positions and work towards a solution considering their opinions. Regional council needs to show that, by their actions, they have taken into consideration the voices of those who are contributing to the public debate.
We need to increase the level of action in our community surrounding affordable housing and homelessness. This is the most important issue facing our community. Our mantra on affordable housing needs to be “As many as we can, as quick as we can, by all means possible”. We need to investigate what the Region can do regarding the supply of developable property, and regulations and costs associated with development. We need to continue to find funding sources to assist in the development of affordable housing. This includes upper tier sources of government funding including private contributions, whether from developers or other private sources. This requires a collaborative discussion with government, community groups, private industry and other interested parties and individuals, to determine how to expand the supply of affordable housing more quickly. Critical consideration must be given to the cost of repairs and maintenance of our existing supply of affordable housing. Like the infrastructure deficit, the needs are great but the available income sources are limited. There may be opportunities to leverage the equity of our existing supply or the rents we receive from current housing to assist in the costs of repairs or the expansion of inventory. We need to be open minded, creative and collaborative in our approach.
My vision includes:
- Continuing to work towards the implementation of a Consumption and Treatment Site (CTS) for Cambridge at 150 Main Street.
- Increasing the availability of addiction services throughout the Region and continue to support a safe supply program.
- Continued and increasing support for discretionary benefits.
- Continuing discussions with local service providers and frontline workers, ensuring the coordination of efforts between the Region and all service providers and that we deliver community services efficiently and effectively .
- Encampments – working with the cities to find space for tents and providing access to services. Advocating with the provincial government to have encampments recognized as part of the housing continuum and supported with provincial funding.
- Continued investments in shelters to try and safely accommodate as many as we can
- Expansion of affordable housing at a more rapid pace by working with provincial and federal governments to increase funding, and with community service advocates, builders and developers, and private industry to develop a plan that would produce results. Our mantra needs to be “As many as we can; As quick as we can; By all means possible”
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Indigenous relations
This has become an increasing area of concern for the community. It is important that we continue to dedicate people and resources to dealing with issues of equity, diversity and inclusion to provide better opportunities for all members of our community. There are members of the community that have been left behind, overlooked or outright not considered for some opportunities. If we are to see everyone in our community benefit from the growth and prosperity of our Region, then we need to continue to identify barriers and find and implement solutions to resolve and break down those barriers and allow all the opportunity to rise up. All residents need to be able to access programs and services. In some instances, we have to consider enhancing opportunities to access, particularly where there are barriers inherently built into our system.
We need to continue to reach out to community groups to help us identify the areas of concern and develop actionable ways of making positive and equitable change in the way that we do things in Waterloo Region. We also need to continue steps taken by the Region of Waterloo to date. But we also need to ensure that the steps we have taken are positive and will get us to our goals. That is why engagement with the community generally, communities of interest and stakeholders is crucial to ensure that we are on the right path.
The Region also needs to continue to be ensure that it is building a diverse workforce and that diversity is reflected at all levels of the Region, including, and especially, senior management.
We also need to ensure that advisory groups, like the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group (ARAWG) continues to play a significant role at the Region. It is important for the Region to actively work to eliminate systemic racism in the workplace and in the provision of services. We need to ensure that we actively solicit the input and advice of ARAWG, and find ways to implement recommendations.
The Region needs to continue to partner with local municipalities, local Indigenous communities and the Grand River Conservation Authority to find a collaborative approach to a reconciliation plan. I support the landback efforts made by the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener. We need to promote and consider the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and determine how we can incorporate recommendations into how we operate in the Region. This also includes the implementation of plans developed within the Region of Waterloo. As a group, we also have to recognize that there is more for us to learn and to do in order to break down barriers for Indigenous Peoples inherent in the Region’s services and programs.
Ensuring the safety of residents is the most important role for any politician. Safety includes not just policing, fire services and paramedic services, but also includes things like discretionary benefit supports, safe consumption site, affordable housing and shelters, to name a few. Elected representatives must consider the safety needs for all members of the community. How we treat the most in need in our community defines who we are as a community. We need to govern with compassion and care for all our residents.
Improved paramedic services include ambulances arriving at a medical emergency within a reasonable timeframe throughout the Region. As the population of our community grows, we need to continue to expand our staffing and capital infrastructure, including ambulances. We also need to keep working to find a solution to the off-loading problem and engage with the province to help implement and fund a solution. As we emerge from the pandemic, we are finding our hospital system in crisis. Staffing problems, more serious illness due to delayed treatment and a backlog of surgeries are significantly impacting our hospitals and this will increase the off-loading problem that impacts the availability of paramedic services in our community. We need to continue to make our own investments in infrastructure including vehicles, and personnel to reduce response times throughout the Region.
There is a growing crisis in our hospital systems because of the pandemic. Staff burnout and waves of Covid infection are resulting in hospitals becoming chronically understaffed. This is resulting in hospitals being forced to close emergency rooms for periods of time and there has been very slow progress on the surgery backlog. As a result of the delay in assessment, diagnosis and treatment, the hospitals are seeing more patients who are suffering from more serious and debilitating illnesses. There is a large contingent of patients who are occupying beds, waiting to be transferred to a long-term care facility. The Region needs to increase its support and enhance the family doctor recruitment efforts in Waterloo Region. Working in coordination with the municipalities, the Chambers of Commerce, existing medical and health care providers and social agencies, the Region needs to assist in all aspects of family doctor recruitment. Access to a family physician is very important for individual and family health. This is one way that the Region can assist in helping to alleviate the patient load at our emergency rooms. We need to work with groups in the community to find innovative ways that we can provide primary care for those that are without such services. Langs is an example of a successful organization that is improving the access to health, social and recreational services for many in our community, who otherwise would not likely have access to such services. We need to consider what other innovative approaches can we develop to improve access to primary care, to family doctor care, for many more in our community.
The demand for emergency services has increased over time and the ability for police and ambulance services to deliver those services has been stretched considerably. The demand for police and emergency medical services increases as population and neighbourhoods grow. In addition to our population growth, our location along Highway 401 brings with it additional crime including organized crime. This includes issues like drug and human trafficking. Our communities requires police services. The issue that we need to deal with is how we deliver those services to ensure that our communities are safe and we are able to deliver police services, by police and non-police personnel, in the most efficient and cost effective manner.
Ensuring that we have a safe community is the highest priority. It is the most important role of a politician. That means that we must ensure that those most in need in our community feel safe in our community.
Safety of the community is the number on priority for all politicians. We must ensure safety for all members of our community. Certain segments of our community have had a disproportionately higher rate of police interaction and negative outcome. We need to acknowledge that and find ways to immediately address the inequity and systemic racism that is inherent in our community. There have been steps taken towards acknowledging these serious issues, and some steps towards trying to rectify the inequities and systemic racism. However, we need to do more. As a Regional councillor I will advocate to ensure that our community is receiving effective and equitable police services. I will also advocate for alternative ways to deliver safety services to our community, especially our most vulnerable community, and at the same time, advocate for a reallocation of the police budget to support these alternative methods for delivering safety services.
Our community is becoming larger. The populations forecasts are significant, and we not only have to plan that growth, but we have to be prepared to provide needed services for that growth, which includes policing. Increased policing needs will follow that growth. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pay for more policing. We cannot afford to continue with the same approach. We need new approaches that provide for an alternative delivery for certain aspects of policing that is not provided by police. For example, we need to consider a mental health call response plan that does not include the involvement of police services. Where we can find new models to deliver safety services in our community, we can consider a reallocation of the police services budget through those innovative efforts.
Police costs are high and a significant portion of the overall regional budget. Wage costs are the biggest single driver of the ever-increasing police budget. We need to consider ways that we can provide policing differently in our community; to find new ways to deliver safety services to the community that ensures the safety of our entire community and helps to reduce or moderate the increases in our police budget. One way to reduce or moderate the increasing costs is to actively seek alternatives for the delivery of certain police services. Finding new ways to deliver emergency response services, without police involvement, will allow for a reallocation of funding from police services to social agencies and related partners who can provide those services previously rendered by police. We also need to advocate, along with other municipal partners, to the province for changes to the Police Act to allow local police boards and municipalities the flexibility to provide the community with the opportunity to provide emergency services that is not police focussed but may be delivered by non-police personnel.
Climate change is urgent. Our future is uncertain, but the impact of climate change is real and present. Climate change has a serious impact on our community and our world. Climate change cannot be avoided and the need to address this issue cannot be set aside. Climate change requires real action now. We must do our part. The Region of Waterloo has been taking steps and working with community partners and leaders in the field of climate action, to develop a climate action strategy to achieve 80% of greenhouse gas emission reduction (based on 2010 levels) by 2050.
I support the work of Waterloo Region and the ClimateActonWR collaborative, working in partnership with the municipalities of Waterloo Region and climate action groups within Waterloo region. As regional councillor I will work to ensure that the Region of Waterloo follows through on its climate action strategy and stays focussed on achieving 80% of greenhouse gas emission reduction (based on 2010 levels) by 2050.
Public Transit, Trails, Bike Lanes and Roads
Improved public transit is important for our community. While driving a car is the primary mode of transport for most of our population now, we must look to the future. Individual car ownership, and where and how and when we work, and where we chose to live now and, in the future, need to be considered thoroughly. The pandemic has altered our work/life balance. The new normal for many is the ability to work for anyone from anywhere. For many others, especially in the service industry, this change is not available to them. The demand for commercial office space has declined considerably, resulting in less space needed by business as more people operating in a hybrid workplace.
Investment in public transit is still important and it provides significant benefits for our community. For many without a car, transit is the main form of transportation to work, to school, to volunteer opportunities and to visit family. It allows for intensification of development by saving on infrastructure costs likes roads. It provides support for climate change initiatives by reducing emissions. It can improve transportation options for many within the Region and beyond, especially within the Waterloo Region – Toronto corridor. A more active and healthier lifestyle is possible when biking and walking is a priority and supporting infrastructure like bike lanes, trails and walking paths are improved. Protected and connected bike lanes needs to be a priority. The goal is to make the alternative to motor vehicle travel viable and practical for more people. Regional government must take a lead in building the necessary infrastructure. By improving infrastructure, increased usage will follow.
We also need to continue to consider how we build safer roads. We need to ensure vehicles are travelling at the appropriate speed in our communities. I support the efforts of the cities to calm roads, create safer road infrastructure and reducing speed limits within neighbourhood roadways and around school zones. I want to find ways for the Region to support those efforts and adopt lower speed limits on regional roads, where appropriate.
My vision includes:
- Continued investments and improvements to transit service, including coverage and frequency, particularly as a feeder to the ION route.
- Continue to reach out to community interest groups, like TriTag and CycleWR, seeking their input into ways we can enhance transit and active transportation in our community.
- Continuing the work on the second phase of ION into Cambridge and strongly advocating for full funding from provincial/federal governments.
- Advocating for high-speed transit with a focus on the Waterloo Region to Montreal corridor.
- Continue advocating for improved two-way all day Go for the Waterloo Region to Toronto.
- More connected and protected bike lanes should be a priority along with expansion of existing bike lane infrastructure, working with the municipalities.
- Closing gaps in the bike lane network and expanding infrastructure which will increase use.
- Improve communication and coordination of bike lane efforts between the Region and municipalities.
- Supporting the development of community trails and connections throughout our Region.
- Continue to explore ways to make our roads safer for all users, through better and more inclusive road design including traffic calming, safety in design including increased use of roundabouts and lower speed limits; exploring the use of technology, including locally developed software to assist in better road design and smart road networks.
We have a long and significant history of economic and industrial leadership in Waterloo Region. Economic development is crucial for the growth and prosperity of a community. The ability to obtain well paying, and secure, employment is important. The environment for economic development is highly competitive, not only within southern Ontario, but across North America.
The Region of Waterloo needs to continue playing a role in promoting economic development. The Region needs to support efforts in attracting manufacturing, particularly advanced manufacturing, to our area and supporting our burgeoning tech industry. This includes development of the infrastructure needed to attract and retain tech companies and workers to our community. We also must consider other employment sectors as well such as the hospitality and tourism industry and how the Region can encourage its development and growth.
As a former regional councillor, I was a strong advocate for the creation of the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation. At the time, the Region was only involved in international business development through Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT), leaving domestic development to each of the cities, who each had their own economic development office.
The creation of the Waterloo Region Economic Development Committee was a significant step forward in better coordination of economic development activities in Waterloo Region. The WREDC demonstrated how the municipalities of Waterloo Region could come together and find a better way to serve the community. While we appreciate the uniqueness of our municipalities, for businesses considering locating here, establishing one point of entry is crucial to simplifying their ability to do business in the Region. To that end the Region needs to continue to commit to smart infrastructure development and promotion to continue to attract business to our community and better paying opportunities for our residents.
Economic development activity should focus not only on attracting new industry like advanced manufacturing to our Region but must also work at retaining existing industry and ensuring that we are able to respond to their needs for continued success. We must provide our existing industrial base with land and space for growth. We should also continue to make investments in our airport.
We have a tremendous burgeoning tech community. We’ve had major successes and there are more to come. The Region needs to support the efforts of Communitech and to provide support for tech companies. This support could include the adoption by the Region of locally developed software and hardware solutions thereby helping local tech companies while also enhancing the Regional experience.
My vision includes:
- The Region continue to play a prominent role in promoting the Region of Waterloo in economic development, and in external promotion of the region, through the WREDC.
- Continuing support for the Waterloo Region Economic Development Committee.
- Development of shovel ready and serviceable industrial land.
- Continued support for the Region of Waterloo International Airport and development of the airport and surrounding lands.
- Review of planning and development regulations to encourage a more efficient response to development.
- Finding opportunities to support tech companies within our community and support their efforts for growth, including adopting and integrating software and hardware innovation into regional services and operations like road infrastructure and management.
Provincial and Federal Government Relations
Our property tax base alone is not sufficient to provide all the services and infrastructure that is needed by our community. We rely on the provincial and federal governments to provide funding for various programs and projects that help our community. We also lobby the higher levels of government for changes to laws that will benefit our community.
The interaction between our Region and the provincial and federal governments is significant. A good working relationship with the provincial and federal government is important. In business I have always shown a strong ability to advocate strongly on behalf of my clients and obtain positive results. Similarly, I have demonstrated in my community work that I can work with other parties and levels of government and advocate to provide benefits for our community. Through working with fellow community members we were able to secure one of the highest levels of funding from the Federal Conservative and Provincial Liberal infrastructure program that allowed us to build a new community centre and arena.
Building and maintaining a good working relationship with the federal and provincial governments will be important for our community. We want to build on the strong reputation that the Region has developed, working with our provincial and federal counterparts. We will continue to benefit from the strong reputation that the Region has established over decades of good inter-governmental relationships.
Heritage and Arts
Heritage and arts play a significant cultural and economic role in our community. As our community’s economic base and population grows, the preservation of our heritage becomes a crucial issue. A community that loses touch with its heritage loses touch with its history and with its identity. The Region of Waterloo has done a wonderful job of preserving its heritage. Arts become imperative in a growing community and reflect the heart and soul of a community. It is vitally important that we continue to take steps to develop a more sustainable community model for the arts. It is important that a supportive nurturing environment and the required infrastructure are created to support the many forms of artistic expression in our community.
My law firm has developed and implemented a mural program. We call it our Kingsway #StreetSeries. We showcase a local mural artist every 6 to 9 months. In addition, we are in the process of renovating space for our firm artist-in-residence program. The DLaw Artist-in-Residence program will host a new artist every 6 months. We are pleased to have the opportunity to support the local art scene, and local artists in this way.
Developing a sustainable model is going to require a community effort. The Region can take the lead as a coordinator. There are many pockets of interest within our community; people that want to support the arts. This support can take various forms, not just financial.
Many interested individuals and groups in the community want to participate in planning for and creating art. We need to provide them with the information about the extent of our arts community, the existing needs, and the opportunities to provide support.
Finances and Budget
The most visible, effective, and efficient use of your tax dollars happens at the local municipal level. Unfortunately for municipalities, over the years several services have been downloaded by the federal and provincial governments, but this increase in responsibilities has not been met with increased funding supports to assist with the associated increased costs in delivering these services. In addition to a services deficit, municipalities have been facing a daunting and growing infrastructure deficit that cannot be dealt with using existing municipal funding sources. Municipalities are dependent on property taxes and do not have any other permanent and sustaining source of funding that would help to relieve the significant costs of delivering the necessary services expected by the community. Property taxes alone will not solve the problem.
It is important that we continue to lobby provincial and federal governments for alternative and sustainable sources of revenue, preferably from existing tax revenues. Ideally this would be a return of a portion of the taxes that are taken from our community by the provincial and federal governments. The goal would be to let municipalities determine their individual priorities and allocate the revenue to those priorities; rather than the federal and provincial governments attempting to develop programs that fit all municipalities across the province and country, essentially telling municipalities what their priorities should be and then earmarking any financial assistance for their priorities, not our priorities.
The Region of Waterloo, despite extraordinary financial pressures including borrowing charges in connection with the development of the ION, has maintained a very high financial credit rating. This has allowed for member municipalities, especially the Townships, to borrow funds through the Region for capital projects at a very low interest rate.
Moving forward the Region will continue to feel financial pressures from several areas including the infrastructure deficit, debt charges due to borrowing, increasing demand for services. These demands will exert tremendous pressure on the Region’s ability to deliver services. It will take experienced leadership, working together with council and staff, to deliver a budget that continues to meet the needs of our community; a budget that is a reflection of the type of community we want to be, where everyone has an opportunity to rise up.
The Region of Waterloo represents one of the leading municipal organizations in Ontario. We have exceptional leadership and staff. I believe that the best and most efficient use of taxpayer dollars happens at the municipal level. While operating within a very large corporate entity, and overseeing substantial growth, especially in infrastructure investment, the Region has consistently maintained an excellent credit rating.
As with any professional organization, it is important to assess whether the Region continues to deliver services in the most efficient manner possible. The Region undertakes internal reviews to seek out cost efficiencies. However, some questions need to be raised, and perhaps even an external review conducted that considers whether there are organizational changes could be implemented to develop a more efficient and effective municipal government for our clients, the taxpayers.
For example, are there areas of duplication of service between the Region and lower tier municipalities in land use planning? Are some departments becoming too large and too unwieldy, like Transportation and Environmental Services for example? Do we have the right management structure in place to meet the challenges for the Region going forward? Should we consider looking to some of the outside community partners to manage certain functions, rather than creating more staff positions within the Region, for example in greenhouse gas projects and climate change carbon reduction initiatives?
We need to continuously review and examine the services we provide and how we provide those services to ensure the most efficient and cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars. At times, that may require considering the use of a third-party firm to assess the Region’s operations and the delivery of services. The goal is always to ensure that the taxpayers continue to receive good value in the delivery of services to the community.
It often seems that a candidate for local office seems to be actively soliciting the thoughts of the community about issues impacting their lives during an election campaign. There have been some efforts to try and improve the ability for constituents to provide input on the issues of the day. The internet has certainly improved that ability, particularly using email and participation in online surveys, soliciting input and thoughts on issues of the day facing council.
We must continue to utilize the internet to its fullest ability, always search for and adopting new methods to improve the Region’s ability to solicit input from the community. Townhalls, whether in person, or virtual, continue to be effective methods for discussions about community. I will investigate the adoption of more townhall meetings to reach out to the community and solicit the views of the community. In addition to general townhalls, I will also promote townhall meetings targeted to various interest groups in the community. This provides groups with an opportunity to focus on issues important to their community, and it provides me with an opportunity to better understand and learn about the issues impacting the lives of various community groups.
There are no term limits in place for municipal, or any other politicians. I recognize that incumbency gives politicians an advantage with respect to re-election. In most circumstances, an incumbent municipal politician will get re-elected. This makes it difficult to elect new people. Politics should not be viewed as a profession; it should be viewed as an opportunity to provide service to your community. Elected officials should make way for new people to step into the role. Newly elected politicians bring a fresh perspective and renewed energy to the role. Granted, there is a learning curve, but working with other politicians and staff, newly elected politicians can become quickly integrated and climatized to their new role. I would seek council support for a term limit of two or three years and seek support to lobby the provincial government for changes to the Municipal Act.
If elected, and then if subsequently re-elected, I commit to no more than 2 terms as a Regional Councillor.
The chairs for the three Standing Committees – Administration and Finance, Community Services and Planning and Works, along with the chair of the Police Services Board, represent key positions at Regional Council. In addition to having a leading role for each of these three committee areas, the committee chairs, along with the Regional Chair, lead the budget process. I would seek to institute term limits for these positions as well. Rather than serve for the entire four-year term, the chairs should be replaced every two years. I would also seek to implement a policy that the chair of the finance committee and the chair of the Police Services Board would not be the same person.
I appreciate the “experience” argument, but I am also a strong believer in fresh eyes looking at matters from a new perspective. There are many organizations that institute term limits for directors and chairpersons – the Grand River Conservation Authority and Grandbridge Energy (formerly Energy Plus and Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro) are two local examples. I would propose to council that term limits be introduced for these four committee chair positions. I am open to how the term limits would be implemented. The general idea is a four-year maximum term. After the first two years as committee chair, there would be a confidence vote among council members to determine whether the committee chair would continue for the final two years of the four-year term. I would also advocate for more diversity in the chair positions, including police services board.
Politics is not a profession; it should represent community service at the highest level. In every community there is a large pool of talented individuals who would be pleased to provide their services. However, one of the largest deterrents to them is incumbency. We have to find ways to create pathways for others to step forward and serve their community. Term limits would remove the issue of incumbency and provide more opportunities for others to serve.
And the community conversation continues …
There are more policy issues to discuss and this is just a start of the conversation. Over the course of the campaign and beyond the discussions will continue. They will form the basis of a more comprehensive plan, a different way of conducting government in the Region of Waterloo, and, ultimately, a better Waterloo Region.
Join me in that conversation during the campaign, and, with your support and your vote, I look forward to continuing the community conversation as we build a more equitable Waterloo Region where we all, including our most vulnerable, rise up.
Moving. Forward. Together.
Regional government must be agile and responsive to ever changing social, economic and environmental influences that drive our economy and society.
As a leader for positive change Regional government must stimulate the social and economic growth of our urban and rural communities to allow us all to prosper.
We’ll need to work together collaborating to make sure all voices in the Region are heard and involving everyone who wants to be part of the solution to plan our future.