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2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Kitchener regional councillor candidates

The Region of Waterloo's administration building in Kitchener. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

On Oct. 24, voters across Waterloo Region will head to the polls to elect city and regional councillors, mayors and a regional chair.

Residents of Kitchener, Waterloo Region’s largest city, will select four people to send to regional council as well as their mayor.

Read more: Meet the candidates for Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo council

It will be a vastly different quartet as three of the four incumbents, Elizabeth Clarke, Tom Galloway and Geoff Lorentz, all chose not to seek re-election.

That leaves veteran local politician Michael Harris as the lone incumbent in a pretty crowded field that features 14 candidates.

Read more: Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic announces intention to seek re-election during radio appearance

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To help voters ahead of this election, Global News has reached out to all of those running for regional or city council, mayor or regional chair in Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo with available online contact info. Those running for office were emailed a list of seven questions and in the coming days, we will provide responses for every candidate who responds.

What follows are the responses we have received from those running for regional councillor in Kitchener, with the candidates being listed in alphabetical order. (This page will be updated if more candidates choose to respond.):

Robert Deutschmann

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

My name is Rob Deutschmann and I am running for Regional Council as a representative for the City of Kitchener.

I have lived in Waterloo Region my entire life. I grew up in Waterloo and went to school in Waterloo and Kitchener. I have operated my law practice in Kitchener since 1995. I was a former Regional Councilor from 2010 to 2014. I am married and we have three young adult daughters.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I believe that because of my previous time on Regional Council, and my success as a small business person, that I offer experienced leadership that will be beneficial at the Region horseshoe, especially with the long list of Regional Councillors that are not seeking re-election. My record of accomplishments in business and public office also demonstrate that I bring a practical and fresh perspective to the position. We have a number of serious issues impacting our community, including affordable housing and homelessness and inflationary pressures on our budget. I strongly believe that I can make a positive contribution, working with the rest of council and staff, to deal with these issues and move the Region forward.

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Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

The most important issues will be putting together a budget, considering the extreme cost pressures and cost of policing; defending that recently passed Official Regional Plan, particularly from any appeals by developers that could negatively impact our countryside line; building more affordable housing – as many as we can, as quickly as we can, by all means possible; making some positive strides forward in dealing with encampments, working with the lower tier governments, community groups and the private sector to find more safe spaces for people to live.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

My long term goals are similar to the issues I outlined above. We are only in office for a four-year term before we go back to the public, if we aren’t seeking re-election. My long-term goals are more affordable housing, a better solution to chronic homelessness and encampments and ensuring that budgetary pressures do not erode our ability to serve the most vulnerable in our community.

Q.5 What is your platform?

You can find my very detailed platform at www.robforcouncil.ca

I cover 14 specific areas in my Policy Reflections.

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My biggest concerns would be what I have outlined above. Getting the budget right including seeing how we can do certain aspects of policing differently in our community; more affordable housing; connected and protected bike lanes; recognition that encampments are part of the housing continuum, along with more investments in shelters and alternative housing options similar to a Better Tent City; continuing to work to be a more equitable, diverse and inclusive community.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like sports.  I play hockey, soccer and golf.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

I like the strong community spirit in Waterloo Region. It results in so many activities organized by the community.

The goal is to get more people included and benefiting from all that the Region has to offer.

Micheal Harris

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the region? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

Kitchener has been my home for over 20 years since I moved here for school. For almost seven years, from 2011 until 2018, I had the privilege of serving as the Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener—Conestoga; and for the last four years, representing Kitchener residents on Waterloo Regional Council.

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Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I’ve been a passionate and tireless advocate for the people of Kitchener and Waterloo Region both during my time at Queen’s Park as MPP and my first term on Regional Council. My passion for our community and its residents has only grown over the years. It is my hope that our community will allow me the privilege to continue serving them.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

Looking at Kitchener and the region as a whole, I’d say affordability. The cost of everything is on the rise and that’s felt right across the region whether we’re talking about housing or the cost of living, generally. We need to act with that in mind and that’s why affordability must be a priority.

Obviously, we need to balance affordability with the services that are offered through and provided by the Region of Waterloo when looking at things like infrastructure, public health, policing and community safety, transit, etc.

We need to make sure that we are listening to the community and working with our partners across the region and other levels of government to ensure that the needs of our residents are being heard and acted upon at all levels.

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Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

My long-term goal is to continue focusing on the needs of our community and making sure that we take into account the realities that people are facing every day in Kitchener and across the region while continuing to promote and champion our community as a place to live, work, raise a family, and to invest in.

Q.5 What is your platform?

Respect for taxpayers, efficient government, and value for service has always been top of mind for me. That’s something I’ve tried to champion on council and it’s something that I will keep fighting for if re-elected. I’m proud to have supported measures aimed at keeping our community safe, our regional services going, and helping our local businesses during the pandemic.

I’m proud of how so many of us came together as a community to help our friends and neighbours. But even as we continue to come out of the pandemic and things get back to normal — people, small businesses and community organizations across our region are still feeling the impact; especially as we look at the state of the economy and the cost of living. We need to ensure that we continue to act with our community in mind.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

My wife and I have three very active kids at home; so much of our spare time is spent with them and their activities. Apart from that and family time, I am an avid golfer, and I also enjoy hunting.

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Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

I’m always amazed at the diversity we have in Kitchener and in the region. We’re home to world class educational institutions, we’re a hub of innovation and technology, and yet we still have such a small town feel in many ways. I think that’s one of the things that set Kitchener and the surrounding area apart from other communities and that’s definitely something I’m proud of and think of as very special.

Mac Graham

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the region? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I was raised in Strathroy, Ont. and eventually settled here in Kitchener with my Wife Popy in 2007.  I had some short stints living in different places around Canada including London, Ottawa, Toronto, Jasper (Alberta) and even over the pond in Paris (France) but Kitchener is where we decided to call home and raise our family.  We are proud of our two sons, Bryan (17) and Aaron (14).  They both are students at St. David’s Secondary School in Waterloo.

I obtained my bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario, King College. I also studied at Universite de Paris La Sorbonne and am a Life Licensed Qualified Professional. I am fluent in both official languages and also practising to become more fluent in Spanish and Greek.

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As the owner/advisor of Klyne Financial for the last 10 years, I teach my clients about the five fundamentals of retirement planning. From there, I help them build achievable plans that enable them to have an enjoyable retirement with the security they desire, and all at tax efficiently as possible.

Outside of my day-to-day business I am also a very active member of the community. I am the current Vice President of the Kitchener Westmount Rotary Club and the voice of their Catch the Ace KW charity Lottery campaign. During the COVID-19 lockdown, myself and my fellow Rotarians Karin Voisin, John Thompson and Klara Serjani founded the KW Cares Movement. We organized lunches for the nursing staff at St. Mary’s and A.R Goudies Long Term Care, donated Cause Boxes to the staff at Trinity Village and ran the KW Cares Caravan (a group of 50 + cars that drove to all the long term care facilities in Waterloo region to raise morale for the nursing staff).

I am also a member of the Kitchener Knights of Columbus. I currently sit as the Events Planning Committee Chair and am the founder of their KW Trivia challenge. This event has raised over $50,000 for local charities like Marillac Place, Hospice of Waterloo Region and Tiny Home Takeout. During the Christmas season I organize sales of handmade nativity scenes for the Knights at the Christkindl Market.

In the spring I spearhead the Great Spring Clean Up where we collect electronic waste, scrap metal, used clothing and arrange document shredding for people in the Region. I also really enjoy helping in the kitchen on wing nights and spaghetti dinners.

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Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

To be honest I wasn’t going to run this term, I wasn’t sure that I could make the time to do the job effectively, as it deserves.  I have many time consuming, important commitments such as raising two teenage sons alongside my wife, owning and operating a small financial business and being an active member of a number of community and charity groups.  I just couldn’t say no because I am passionate about this region and want to see it flourish and grow for generations to come.  My love of this region comes from my belief that it is the best place to live and raise a family in Canada.  I can say that because I have lived in many different places but this one is unique in its vibrance, energy and so many other distinctive features.

It doesn’t mean the Region is not without its issues. We are experiencing some very significant problems around housing, community building and the lack of public and private investment in the Region. We need to be leveraging the strengths of this community to create beneficial partnerships between business, government and the people who live here.

I was raised by a family who said you didn’t have the right to complain about something unless you were willing to do something about it (sometimes my father used more colourful language to say this!). Through this upbringing, I learned that it is much more rewarding to be part of the solution and not just wait on the sidelines hoping for change or complaining when it doesn’t. I am running because I think I can help point the community towards solutions.

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This region and its institutions have a long history and it all began with people working together, helping and taking care of each other. I embrace this philosophy and intend to continue with this focus in mind.

Homelessness is now at crisis levels in the Region. Everyone deserves proper, safe shelter.  Once this goal has been attained and adequate housing and shelter has been expanded, the idea that anyone can pitch and live in a tent wherever they wish in the city has to be removed as an option. These encampments are not safe for anyone.  Not the people who live there, not the people who secure these places and not for the neighbouring community.  This simply cannot continue to happen.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your city and the region as a whole?

I believe that housing affordability is the No. 1 issue facing this community from top to bottom.  The average home price sits at $850,000 currently and the median rent for a 1bedroom apartment is $1700.  These figures are out of reach for a large segment of the population.

At the top level, people feel the dream of home ownership is out of reach and are beginning to look elsewhere.  Those are people we need to fill important jobs.  At the lower end, people can no longer afford to rent the most basic apartment units, which is definitely contributing to our homeless crisis.

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As a Region we need to do everything we can to increase the supply of available housing.  With enough supply, prices will drop making our Region more affordable and attractive to newcomers.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

I would love to see the Region build a new world class sports, entertainment and conference facility in Downtown Kitchener. This would be the crown jewel of our Region and the gathering point for all major events.  The building would be for all citizens of the Region and therefore this should be a regional project.  In turn, the existing properties on East Ave. could be sold to cover some of the cost of the new building and create more housing.

I would also like to see the Region invest more in public, private, partnerships, with the not for profit community to solve the homeless crisis we are facing, and with our post-secondary schools to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges like climate change.

Q.5 What is your platform?

The Housing Crisis – Waterloo Region is no longer an affordable place to live. We must increase the supply of housing to satisfy the demand and improve the approvals process so homes get built faster.

The Unsheltered Crisis – There are over 1,000 people living unsheltered in Waterloo Region. First and foremost, we need to find shelter for all. Then, let’s work together to ensure this never happens again.

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Economic Development – How can we continue to build upon the success we are already experiencing in Waterloo Region? It’s time to move The Aud downtown!  Let’s build a world class sports and entertainment facility where it belongs, in the heart of our region.

Climate Change – How can we have a greater impact on the environment? Let’s build public/private partnerships with our post-secondary schools and find ways to tackle some of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

Please see above

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/region?

The Region has a spirit of collaboration and a work ethic unlike anywhere I’ve ever lived before.  I can still remember when I joined the Chamber of Commerce and attended my first meeting.  As a new business owner, the response I heard over and over again was “How can we help you to grow your business?”.  I was blown away by the generosity of the people here who were willing to help.

That’s what made me fall in love with this Region; and it’s why I’m running to be a Regional Councilor.

Tom Hillier

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the region? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

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I am a multi-generational son of Waterloo Region.  Only for relatively short periods has work taken me away from K-W.  I’ve lived in the midtown area of Kitchener for 40+ years.  Now fidgety in retirement, experience has included both local manufacturing and tech, but primary activities included analysis, management and sales in banking, investment, insurance and real estate

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

Over the course of a lifetime, I’ve accumulated skills and knowledge pertinent to Regional political governance.  My passion for the community has continued to overflow.  In addition to experience and education, and through the benefit of family with local backgrounds in education, health care and engineering, I’ve developed a centrist and pragmatic philosophy which I believe is more important than ever to help guide The Region as it grows rapidly, evolves and seeks to enhance its prominence.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

As one of the fastest growing regions in the country, managed change is the most important.  However, addressing that growth means confronting particular problems.  Specific among them, economic strains resulting in an affordability issue and spin-offs crises that are associated.  These include homelessness, mental despair and addictions which continue to destroy lives prematurely.  Because the first responsibility of any government is the security of its constituents, our housing deficit represents a true emergency and requires we act accordingly.  Though total resolution is unlikely because root causes are complex, the magnitude of the current situation is unacceptable.  The fundamental base for people’s success is family, or, in adulthood, a support network, and the existence of work opportunities – the homeless too often have neither.

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Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

I want to see The Region further entrench its provincial prominence economically and socially.  Be more coordinated and cohesive with its constituent parts in planning and implementing networked growth (Key will be Waterloo Region’s Economic Development Corp and Community Foundation, Grand River Transit, industry and incubators, education and health institutions).  I’m seeking a balanced economy with robust job opportunities available across the widest possible range of skill sets and abilities.  It’s my objective for Waterloo Region to have the best work force participation rate in the province and comparatively better metrics pertinent to education and health services, as well as crime and unemployment.

Q.5 What is your platform?

See:  tomhiller4waterlooregion.weebly.com

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I read widely, and music competes with a keen following of current affairs, local development and politics.  However, getting together with family for meals accompanied by lively discussion is characteristically my most enjoyable use of free time.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

Hands down, it’s living in the same community as all four of my siblings, including most of their growing families.  We’ve grown with The Region and have been delighted to participate in its burgeoning vibrancy, the diversity that it offers in access to urban amenities, and the ease with which it offers to escape to rural areas and Ontario’s natural wonders.  It continues to offer intimacy while competing favourably against metropolitan cities outside its “weight class”.

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Colleen James

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I am a local business owner/consultant, specializing in equity and inclusion. I work locally, nationally and internationally within various public, private and not-for-profit sector environments. I have degrees in political science, history and Caribbean studies, as well as a certification in leadership and inclusion. A graduate of Leadership Waterloo Region, I recently earned my Master of Education in educational leadership and policy. I am also a former professor in the School of Business at Conestoga College.

I was born and raised in Kitchener. I grew up in the Country Hills and Victoria Hills community. I have lived here my entire life, with the exception of living in Toronto to attend university. I now reside in Doon South with my husband and daughter.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I love this community and care about our collective future. I believe I am the right person for the job because of my municipal experience. I understand what the Region does and how Council decisions impact residents daily. My experience addressing inequities in our community and connecting people will play a vital role in building a Region where we can all thrive.

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Additionally, I bring to this role a diversity of perspectives, having worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. I am a proud business owner who knows how to develop partnerships and create powerful environments for change. I understand the importance of having an equity informed lens when making decisions (as) a Regional Council as these choices determine how we will adapt and respond to the growing needs of the community.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

The most important issue facing the Region of Waterloo is housing. I approach this issue from three key perspectives: affordable housing, housing the unhoused and availability of homes.

There is no doubt, we are in a housing crisis. For many residents, the dream of owning a home is not a reality, and accessing affordable rentals is difficult. Waterloo Regio(n) is expected to grow from 600,000 residents to one million. Given our current housing demographics, there will not be enough homes to accommodate families choosing to move here.

As a result, housing must be a top priority for the next Regional Council as we work to address affordable housing, finding homes for the unhoused and looking at ways to increase the availability of homes for families.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

My long-term goals for the Region are ensuring we adapt and respond to the growing needs of the community. This means looking at how we build, making sure that we have the infrastructure in place to support growth. We must find ways to address the needs of our unhoused neighbours and make sure they have the services that they require. I am also focused on smarter investing as a long term goal. This means looking at how we invest now to reduce our carbon footprint and address climate change. My long-term plan also involves continued investment in our local economy. I want to ensure that businesses continue to be attracted to this region, and that they remain here. I want to invest in services that create more equitable outcomes for everyone in our Region.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

My platform centres on my values as a leader. These values determine my approach to making decisions on behalf of the community. I believe these values are ongoing and work on a continuum. They include building trusted relationships; having equity-informed community discussions; listening and collaborating; empowering and amplifying; and, taking meaningful action and being accountable.

By remaining true to these values, I believe we can build a Region that works for all, where we can all thrive and where everyone in our community feels engaged and represented.

My areas of focus include housing, access to services, smart investing, safer communities, the environment, transportation and reconciliation.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

Walks with my family and reading

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

My favourite thing about living in Kitchener is diversity of our community and our commitment to helping our neighbours.

SooBok Lee

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I moved to Kitchener from Seoul, South Korea 19 years ago as an immigrant. I self-started and built my life, raising my three kids here with the help of the regional community. Initially I was juggling between multiple jobs for my living and gradually started my small business at home as a hair stylist in 2008. The community here always supported me to stand on my feet, guiding me to create a better life for myself and my family.

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I also trained to become a personal support worker in 2016 which gave a better visibility and insight into the community, relating to the issues that we could resolve collectively. The last 19 years in Kitchener helped me build my roots, career and future for my family with lots of ups and downs. Being an integral part of this community, I strongly believe that I can make the required decisions and changes to create a better society that we all deserve.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

Being a part of the community that brought me up to who I am today, listening to their life stories, sharing my life with them together with my small business and personal support work, I hear and know the decisions I need to take to resolve the issues we have, lay out better plans to create an affordable living for us.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

Affordable housing has been the most important and growing concern for the majority of the existing citizens and newcomers to our region. Be it renting or buying a home for the first time, the struggle remains the same for everyone. This has led to a lot of new homeless campsites rising in the last 4-5 years. Increased population and the inability to construct new houses to accommodate them is causing this problem across all areas of the region.

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I plan to change it by working with the local corporations to repurpose their unoccupied rental spaces into affordable housing options and also getting the approvals required for new housing constructions quicker.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

  • To build a strategic plan that can support old and new local businesses who can help improve the economic growth of the city and continue building more employment opportunities for the residents
  • Investing more in (the) health care sector to improve the existing facilities, bring more family doctors and practitioners to our region
  • Build collective agreements and deliverables with the local boards by holding them accountable and increasing civic engagement in shaping the future of our city

Q.5 What is your platform?

I am focusing more on joining the community events where I can meet the residents in person, in order to hear & understand their pain points better.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I volunteer for the KW senior day program at times, whenever required spending quality time with the residents. I am a chairperson for Prueter Public School parent’s association, setting up nutrition programs, organizing community support & fundraising events to help vulnerable students.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

Kitchener is a city of people! The diversity and inclusion that this place offers is quite unique & unparalleled. People here have always been open, supportive and extremely friendly leaving me awestruck even after spending almost two decades here.

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Michael Parkinson

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I have been a life-long resident of Waterloo Region. My paid work includes almost 18 years as staff support to an Advisory Committee to Regional Council – the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, and before that, managing a large food bank and in direct service at two homeless shelters. Previously I worked to advance smarter urban, transportation, and environmental planning and design.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I began community work at an early age, attending my first City Council meeting about 3 decades ago, and I just haven’t stopped. I really am committed to public service! My experiences working inside Regional government, with other municipalities, other governments, and community organizations across Canada has been a privilege. Together with deep knowledge and experience on some of the critical issues facing residents today, voters can expect me to hit the ground running. Plus, I was Mayor for a Day in grade 10!

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

At the door, the number one concern raised are issues of housing, homelessness, and encampments. Issues of community safety and the economic climate are common. As a candidate with substantial experience and expertise on issues of homelessness, community safety, and related areas is a plus for voters and local businesses who are feeling the impacts from the missed prevention opportunities of the past.

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I would add that all governments must begin shifting public resources to ‘upstream’ prevention approaches. The chronic focus on reactive, ‘downstream’ interventions is the most expensive and often the least effective approach. As a local taxpayer and as a candidate, I want the highest financial returns possible, and the least amount of harms to residents.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

Define long-term! It has been said that “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children.” And before settlers arrived here in Waterloo region, multi-generational planning was the practice, not this narrow focus on quarterly reporting or the next 4 years of political office.

I have three children but regardless, it is very unfair and really dangerous to kick today’s health, socio-economic, and environmental problems over to the people who will follow us on this earth. The evidence for prevention is clear, the political interest much less so. Long term, I hope governments and others can shift towards a culture of prevention that helps, not harms, has equity as a core value, is a superior use of public dollars, and serves both present and future generations.

Q.5 What is your platform?

How much time do you have??? The website http://www.PARKINSONmichael.ca provides some clues. My unofficial motto is ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ and I hope to deliver on novel solutions to some of the major crises affecting Waterloo region now – housing and homeless, crime prevention, advancing genuine progress on issues of equity – including TRC and UN DRIP- and ensuring the world we leave behind is in better condition than the way we found it. For residents and business owners with an interest on making real progress on drug-related issues, well, I’m the man with a plan who can and will if given the opportunity by voters.

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My early work involved urban and transportation and ecosystem planning at municipal and provincial levels. There was some success but clearly, there is still much to do. Reducing and/or adapting to climate change is critical.

And let’s be clear: senior levels of government with the jurisdiction and revenue tools punting basic issues of housing and homelessness, life and death, to the local level is never going to work out. It’s a crisis, not a spectator sport and continued advocacy for structural and financial supports is likely to be a feature.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

Well, spending time with my family is my preference. I’m a lifelong hockey player whose skills are consistently trending downward. And I like to make music a lot, mostly with guitars.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

I’ve had the privilege of spending periods in other countries where many of the basic necessities are lacking. I am grateful for these things but also for the fact that there is just so much to do in the city, and much of it offered free of charge. That doesn’t happen everywhere in Canada. We really are fortunate and ought to tip our hat to those before us and amongst us who make that happen.

Iffat Sultana Riasat

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I am a proud Kitchener resident and I have lived in the community since 2014. I live in the Doon South area with my husband and three children. We have chosen Waterloo Region to raise our family and enjoy the many benefits of living in a diverse community with many amenities including trails, parks, local museums and other educational centers.

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I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, and I am a regulated Canadian immigration consultant. I have worked with people from many different categories of immigration, but I particularly found working with refugees fleeing persecution most rewarding. I understand the challenges vulnerable people face and I want to help our most vulnerable population get back on their feet.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I believe I am the right person for the job because I am passionate about helping people and building community. I want to see our region prosper. I am empathetic and I am inclined to making sensible decisions backed by science or studies.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

The most important and urgent issue we need to work on is helping our homeless population. If elected I would first and foremost address this issue.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

I hope to see Kitchener and Waterloo Region as a technology hub with greater connectivity to Toronto. I want to see an efficient region with a space for everyone to live.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

My platform is based on my own core value of empathy. I believe in making sensible decisions backed with studies and helping the most vulnerable. Below is some information about my platform:

Regional growth planning: The region has grown 9.9 per cent from 2016-2021. To put this into perspective Toronto grew 4.6 per cent in the same time period. The region is expected to continue to grow and prosper. I want to make sure we are equipped to handle such rapid growth. We need to work to increase capacity to accommodate every single resident.

• Our schools have become overcrowded and having several portable classrooms at every school is not uncommon,
• hospitals are always busy and hospital staff are overworked,
• traffic congestion as increased,

I will work to ensure our regional infrastructure and services are equipped to handle such rapid growth.

Affordable Housing/Homelessness: The current wait times for community housing is 3-8 years depending on the type of unit. There are currently 6,000 households on the wait list. In 2019, the Region released a plan to create only 600 new units over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, these numbers do not add up. The region has only planned to house 10 per cent of the families on the wait list. We need to work to create more housing units with the ultimate goal of housing all the families on the wait list.

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The federal government has recently announced $2 billion in spending to address housing living affordability. I will work to ensure the region is able to secure a sizable portion of these funds.

Homelessness: There are currently over 1,000 people experiencing homelessness in our region; the amount of people experiencing homelessness has nearly tripled since 2018. By creating more affordable housing units we can help over 70 per cent of the homeless population.
At a regional level we need to provide our homeless population with support and tools needed to help them succeed. I will advocate for the following services specifically for our vulnerable homeless population:

• Bus passes
• Public internet access
• Housing search support
• Outreach workers
• Expanding emergency shelter services

Policing: The region has increased the police budget by $10 million dollars for 2022 to hire additional officers. I will work to ensure funds are being used to effectively for our region. Despite the increase in funds the Integrated Mobile Police and Crisis Team (IMPACT) services have not been expanded. The team is only available between the hours of 8am to midnight. I will work to ensure effective services such as IMPACT are available 24/7.

I will work to ensure funds are used effectively to protect our region.

Building a modern Region: The Toronto-Waterloo corridor is the second largest technology cluster in North America. I want to build a modern region which reflects our position. I will work to improve our region by presenting the following initiatives:

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• Expanded public wifi in high traffic areas
• Introducing mobile wallet compatible EasyGO fare cards
• Expanding cybersecurity protocols and reviewing requirements for Regional vendors (in response to the recent hacking incident).

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy playing beach volleyball and bike riding with my kids.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

My favourite thing about Kitchener is the community trail and the many different family based activities available.

Matt Rodrigues

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the ward/city? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I spent years visiting Waterloo Region as a child and always felt a connection to the urban-rural dynamic and strong sense of community. But when I started my undergrad at the University of Waterloo in 2013, that’s when things changed. I quickly fell in love with all that a growing Waterloo Region had to offer, including vibrant urban cores and a forward-thinking vision, and often would be found riding the bus to Kitchener to explore a new store or spend an afternoon at a coffee shop.

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Since then, I have been the Chair of City of Kitchener’s Active Transportation and Trails Advisory Committee, was one of the founding members of the new Downtown Kitchener Neighbourhood Association and has been a relentless advocate for safe streets. I have enthusiastically participated in many local initiatives, including championing the pedestrianization of Gaukel Street and efforts to boost Downtown nightlife.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

With experience as an urban planner working across Ontario, I understand what it takes to plan a great Region and understand the driving legislative frameworks. Further, I regularly facilitate public and stakeholder consultation sessions which engage those typically left out of the decision-making process.

I deeply know our local governance and two-tier municipal government structure, have actively followed decisions over the last four years, and regularly delegate and advocate to local and regional councils on a wide range of issues. I have presented at conferences, together with school board representatives, on issues facing school boards, including the funding model, student enrollment, and rural school closures.

As someone who rents in Downtown Kitchener, doesn’t own a car, and relies on transit and cycling to get around, I understand and experience the barriers many in our community face when accessing important Regional services.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

One of my priorities is to advocate for new public housing, and support and fund co-operative ownership and land trust models to build new deeply affordable housing units in our region. It’s no secret that Waterloo Region is becoming increasingly unaffordable, and the Region has an important role to play in this equation as it is responsible for housing.

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The encampments we see throughout the region, including at Victoria and Weber streets, are a symptom of this failure of housing policy. Decades of underfunding for non-profit and social housing, combined with restrictive zoning in the majority of our neighbourhoods, have exacerbated the problem. Every dollar spent on housing and supports for those who are chronically homeless translates to over $2 in savings related to health care, the justice system, shelters and other supports that the Region supports or provides. I will prioritize continued investments in support of the Region’s goal to build 500 units of affordable housing each year.

In the immediate term, I believe the Region should retract its lawsuit to evict the residents of the Victoria & Weber St. encampment. On the contrary, we must recognize that encampment support on Regional lands (washrooms, waste collection, water access) is a necessary form of harm reduction while we work quickly to improve access to shelter and housing options. I know that new housing doesn’t get built overnight. As we increase the supply of affordable housing, the Region should expand its rent supplement program to get people housed immediately in the private market.

Furthermore, our shelter system and supportive housing providers are in need of assistance to improve their mental health and addictions supports. We learned during the pandemic that new forms of shelter services, which provide private rooms and more stability, can help people find permanent housing more quickly. The complexity of support in these environments keeps increasing, and the Region’s funding model for supportive housing needs to adapt to recognize these growing mental health and addictions components too.

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Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

As we think about the future of Kitchener and Waterloo Region, I would like to see a community where residents do not have to worry about having a roof over their heads, where neighbours continue to support each other as the city grows, and where everyone has options for transportation. Waterloo Region will be a leader in tackling the housing and climate crises, building new rapid transit and safe streets for people, and is at the forefront of sustainable growth management policies that protect our valuable agricultural lands.

Q.5 What is your platform?

I have four main priority areas in this campaign, and I would invite you to read more about all of them at https://www.mattrodrigues.ca/priorities — here are the highlights:

  • A Connected Region: continued growth in Grand River Transit bus services and future rapid transit, active transportation as a foundational consideration in all road construction projects, and investment in critical infrastructure like drinking water
  • A Forward-thinking Region: promote local jobs and new neighbourhoods within the Countryside Line, more local energy solutions, and putting climate action at the centre of all the Region’s decisions.
  • A Caring Region: build deeply affordable housing units, to broadly implement $10-a-day child care and the creation of new spaces, and re-allocate funding towards approaches that prevent social issues and harms, including public health and community care.
  • A Responsive Region: prioritize the delivery of great core public services in the 2023 Budget and will emphasize responsiveness, transparency, and accountability in decision-making.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

Outside of work, I am an avid cook and try to find new recipes and techniques – and love to share food with company. You’ll find me camping throughout the summer and exploring small Ontario towns as I go.

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Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

I moved (to) Downtown Kitchener for the sense of community, urban amenities including restaurants and parks, and great places to explore. Every Saturday morning you’ll find me at the Kitchener Farmers’ Market, enjoying a morning coffee and catching up with friends. The smalltown connection with large city services, such as ION LRT, make this a great place to live.

Kari Williams

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I am 37 years old and have lived in Kitchener since I was born (at GRH). I attended Wilfrid Laurier University to complete both my undergraduate and graduate Degrees (BA, MA). I do contract research work for different organizations and academics. I also do contract work editing documents and academic manuscripts for post-secondary publications. Currently, I have three volunteer positions and have opted to focus on campaigning.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I have lived in Kitchener my entire life. I have grown up here, received an education, purchased my first home, and am raising my family with my husband here. I have seen how Kitchener has been developing for over 30 years. I ran in the last election, and after seeing many of the identified issues from four years ago have become increasingly problematic, I worked to gain a better understanding of local issues and policies, as well as more community and professional experience in anticipation of running again. I am very involved in the community and have seen an increased demonstrated need because of life becoming increasingly unaffordable for many. I run a free community meal program and our numbers continue to climb. While some changes that the city has made have been positive, there are a lot of changes that have left many residents behind. With my experience in volunteer community work, my work on boards and committees, research and writing experience, and my knowledge from the Master’s degree in Political Science and Research (WLU) I earned, I have the skill, education, and experience to make a positive impact and to influence and develop policy that will bring about meaningful change.

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Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city/region as a whole?

Affordability, especially related to housing, is the biggest issue facing Waterloo Region. People are struggling to afford everything from transit passes, gas, and childcare fees, to groceries, utilities, and mortgage and rent payments. It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the amount of encampents and wait times for subsidized housing are increasing with the current low vacancy rates and low housing stock. This is unacceptable. We should have different types of units that are appropriate, cost-effective, and accessible available for residents to be able to live and thrive in their community.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city/region?

In an ideal world I see neighbourhoods that are accessible, inclusive, and connected. I want to ensure we have an adequate and varied housing stock available for everyone who lives here and any newcomers to our community. I will also work toward a network of active transportation, transit, and road infrastructure that makes sense and reaches every neighbourhood so people can choose what mode of transportation is the best for them. Not everything we have implemented has worked and I would like to modify and add to it to make it more accessible. Another long-term goal for Waterloo Region is ensuring we have enough healthcare facilities, professionals, and services for our residents. Protecting our greenspaces, especially where we are building up, is good for everyone, and something I would like to see expanded.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

I understands the current demands on our local government and want to:

  • Build our community by dramatically increasing the number of supportive, subsidized, co-op, and below-market-rent housing units to reduce homelessness and address affordability concerns.
  • Keep developments within boundaries, repurpose underutilized regional lands, and ensure that the region meets housing and density targets in a sustainable way – to protect our natural spaces and keep our drinking water safe.
  • Connect communities, trails, and transit: improve transit infrastructure, increase frequency, expand to new neighbourhoods, and reduce costs.
  • Support businesses and workers within our community, and encourage council to look locally for products and services.
  • Reduce pressure on our ERs by increasing family doctor availability and access to necessary services like health clinics, harm-reduction facilities, and mental health supports.
  • Meet existing emissions reduction targets to mitigate climate change.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I take my children swimming and paddleboarding often in the spring and summer, long trail walks and bike rides in the fall, and we skate outdoors in the winter. I am an avid reader and like to volunteer. I also love to bake when I have the chance.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

My neighbourhood is amazing. The people here are great and we frequently chat outdoors, drink coffee, deliver food to each other, and our kids play outside until the streetlights come on. I also live beside a conservation area with multiple trails and a pond nearby. I love that I have everything I need within walking distance and I still feel like I’m surrounded by nature.

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Due to a time crunch, Heather Caron was only able to provide a limited response and wished to point people to her website for further answers: HeatherCaron.ca.

Global News has also reached out to Joe Gowing and Mary Henein Thorn but has not received a response as of publication. This copy will be updated as further answers arrive.

 

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