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2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Cambridge Ward 5 council candidates

File photo of Cambridge City Hall. 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 Cambridge, the region’s second-largest city, will elect councillors in eight wards as well as a mayor to form city council.

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

There will be at least three new faces in place, as Ward 4 Coun. Jan Liggett is running for mayor and Ward 5 Coun. Pam Wolf is seeking one of two seats on regional council. Ward 3 Coun. Mike Mann has chosen not to seek re-election.

The race to replace Wolf in Ward 5 will be an interesting one as it will include Jim Karahalios, leader of the provincial New Blue Party,  as well as Naeem Awan, Amanda Maxwell, Mark D. Fisher and Sheri Roberts.

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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, the responses for every candidate who replies will be shared.

What follows are the responses received from those running for councillor in Cambridge, with the candidates being listed in alphabetical order:

Naeem Awan

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 first settled down in the tight-knit multi-culture community of Thorncliffe Park in Toronto more than two decades ago and spent time establishing roots in Canada and working to provide a better future for our four children. We have truly immersed ourselves in our local communities in both Toronto and Cambridge, where we relocated to in 2015 and have been living in the ward from that date. My family has made it a priority to strive to give back to the community that welcomed us with open arms and provided us with the resources and opportunities to provide a bright future for future generations.

An animal nutritionist by training with various post-graduate certifications branching into multiple industries, including a post-graduate certification in Project Management and in International Development. My research paper has been published in “Commonwealth Veterinary Journal”. I am an entrepreneur and project management consultant working with the construction and financial industry.

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Read more: Dozens of late entries into Kitchener, Waterloo municipal elections

My domestic and global business experiences allow me to gain valuable experience and insight that will prove to be extremely useful as a City Councillor. I am volunteering with different organizations and I also served as director with the city of Cambridge for the “Bernice Adams Bursary Award Committee.” In this role, my key responsibilities included communication with local schools and organizations, shortlisting potential candidates, designing, planning and executing the final award ceremony.

My years of experience connecting with people of different backgrounds in various roles with the goal of accomplishing one common agenda for everyone which will no doubt be an incredibly useful skill to have as your Ward 5 representative in City Council. I understand the numerous struggles that small and medium-sized businesses face on a regular basis and have plans to put my managerial and communication skills to good use by helping to provide more opportunities and resources for these businesses to flourish and prosper within our community.

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

Over the past seven years, I have interacted with people from diverse backgrounds who come from different ethnic groups, socio-economic status, race, religion, age and people from all walks of life. The interaction with the people has allowed me to understand the needs and issues which are vital to the residents of Ward 5. My education and experience in different fields in community development, project management, community engagement, agriculture scientific research and international development will help to implement ideas and policies that are for the betterment of my constituents. Since I have been living in Cambridge, I have spent an uncountable number of hours volunteering for the benefit and betterment of the community. I volunteered my time in designing and organizing seminars and workshops for education and experience purposes for professionals and common people. I also worked as a director with the City of Cambridge in “Bernice Adam Award Committee.” My abilities to bridge ideas and concepts through strong leadership and self-accountability approach that qualifies me to represent Ward 5 at the city council.

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

Living in Cambridge for the past seven years, the most common issues which I heard or that have been brought to my attention by the residents of ward 5 is affordable housing. The living standard is going down with the passage of time due to many reasons. The affordable housing issue has a trickle-down effect on the family well-being, community development and sustainable growth. This issue becomes more serious due to the lack of financial accountability and lack of community safety.

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

The long-term goals for the city are a strong and accountable leadership which will be proved by their actions. The decision of the council must be made through a transparent and democratic process. Strong leadership and accountability will impact on the collective wellbeing of the community and sustainable growth.

Q.5 What is your platform?

The core things I will be aiming to work on if I get elected as Ward 5 Councilor would be: 1) Affordable Housing, 2) Financial Accountability, 3) Sustainability, 4) Community Safety, 5) Assisting Small Businesses, 6) Environment Protection, 7) Transportation & 8) Infrastructure.

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

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I spend my spare time with my family, reading books and playing soccer.

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

My favorite thing about living in the city of Cambridge is the schooling of young kids. All of my kids were raised and went to local schools and graduated with distinction. The city of Cambridge is growing at a decent pace. It is a better city to live in due to safety and security mechanisms, natural beautification of the city and diverse growing communities. Bridging the gaps in our communities, ideas and actions and overall, developing ownership and being respectful towards everyone will allow us to make Cambridge an even better city to live in.

Jim Karahalios

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 lived in Cambridge for over seven years with my wife Belinda and our son Victor who is six. I am a lawyer and have been a grassroots advocate for over 20 years starting as a student, when I served as president of the engineering school and law school I attended. I then served two elected terms on the Conservative Party’s National Policy Committee, acting as a volunteer riding association president and campaign manager. I’ve led advocacy campaigns against internal political party voter fraud and I started the Axe the Carbon Tax campaign.

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In 2020 I qualified and ran for Conservative leader but was unlawfully removed from the race and was reinstated by an Ontario court judge and then I was I disqualified a second time without justification. In 2018, I ran for Ontario PC President and was the victim of overwhelming voter fraud – the case is still in court.

Read more: Conservative leadership candidate Jim Karahalios disqualified despite legal victory

I ran in the 2022 Ontario election as leader of the New Blue Party of Ontario that I co-founded and which I am still leader.

I recently recovered from a year long struggle with bone cancer during which I went through six rounds of chemotherapy and three surgeries. While most of my femur was replaced with an internal prosthesis and I lost two quadricep muscles, I was lucky I didn’t lose my leg and in less than a year I was learning to walk again and back to campaigning and working.

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

I am the best person for the job. I always bounce back from adversity – whether that’s bone cancer or standing up for people and principle. I also can lead and advocate for West Galt taxpayers even when it requires advocating for positions the establishment class rather not hear. West Galt taxpayers need a councillor who will challenge the status quo and not capitulate to the pressure that’s placed on councillors to just go with the flow. That’s the approach we need to fix Ward 5’s traffic congestion, ensure safe and secure streets, and spend tax dollars wisely. Please visit http://www.votejimk.ca

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

We need to make living in Cambridge more affordable and to push for a freeze in property taxes that requires saying no to all new taxes or increases to taxation. We also need to push Regional Council for an accelerated infrastructure solution to alleviate traffic congestion in West Galt.

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

Life in Cambridge has become less and less affordable. We can’t afford a 4.25 per cent increase in municipal property tax in one year. Cambridge residents are also worried about crime, homelessness, and drug addiction. At the same time, residents are very skeptical that politicians are willing to stand up and push back against ideologically based proposals that are only making matters worse.

Q.5 What is your platform?

There has been a 21 per cent increase in property taxes since 2017 which means our property taxes are on pace to double in 12 more years. I am going to call for a freeze in property taxes and will present City Hall with a petition calling for just that.

I will advocate to Waterloo Region Council for an accelerated infrastructure solution to increased traffic congestion occurring in West Galt. And I will look for solutions that ensure the ward is safe and secure.

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

I spend every minute I can outside of work with my wife Belinda and our son Victor. I am fortunate that our time in politics together and our recent health challenges have brought us closer together and provided us with more time together. My favourite past time is watching our son participate in his extra-curricular activities.

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

The best part about Cambridge is the people.

Amanda Maxwell

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 lived in Cambridge in Ward 5 since I was 4 years old when my parents, Rich and Sherry Maxwell, moved into the house they still live in today.  I have always loved this Cambridge for its charming buildings and beautiful natural landscape.  It was a great place to be raised and now my husband, Keith Cutten, and I are raising our three children here.  Before having my children, I was a Cambridge Realtor for 12 years. I also have a Honours BA in Communications and Urban Studies from Wilfrid Laurier.

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

My life experiences are what will make me an exceptional councillor.  I am also taking this on as a full-time job and not pursue additional employment.   I am the right person for the job because Cambridge is about to go through a major shift.  We are going to see a lot of development along Hespeler Road and into downtown Galt (which is designated by the Province as an Urban Growth Centre).  We have an incredible opportunity to create a very dynamic city.  My knowledge of cities through my university education (Urban Studies) and hands on experience as a realtor selling throughout the entire city (and the region) gives me vast knowledge of planning and development. Currently, we do not have urban design guidelines in place to help with a cohesive development.  There should be a plan for all three core areas and Hespeler Road.

Read more: Meet the Cambridge Ward 6 council candidates

I have also spent the last decade on the Cambridge Public Library Board which governs the library.  This gave me experience with the City of Cambridge’s budgeting process and capitol projects.  I was also Board Chair when the Old Post Office construction commenced. Lastly, my degree in communications has taught me a lot about interacting with people.  This may sound simple but I want to listen to constituents as well as update constituents weekly on what is happening on council by using social media.  Transparency is important and it will help us grow together as a city.

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

The city as a whole: I personally think development is an ‘issue’ only because I don’t think we’re ready for all the development that is about to happen. We lack the knowledge needed on council.  I have been listening to a lot of people and they say traffic is a big issue city-wide. We need to lobby the Region to get the MacQueen-Shaver by-pass extended quickly to Dundas so trucks can take Dundas to Franklin.  In Ward 5 a lot of people are saying they really want to see downtown Galt revitalized.  We have some awesome businesses and we need to attract even more so we can have a really thriving downtown. To do this, we need to assist those facing homelessness and mental health so they have the support they need.   It’s about looking to what other cities are doing successfully and seeing if we can replicate it here.

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

I want to see Cambridge finally come together as one.  It’s been disjointed since amalgamation but if we develop properly, and we have the right council guiding us through then, we can truly be an amazing city.  One that is unique and has kept its charm, and one that has a lot to offer anybody who wants to live here.  I have always had this vision of the city.  My husband Keith is a Registered Provincial Planner (although he does not work in planning and is employed as a Golf Course Architect) so we have spent the last 14 years talking about what Cambridge ‘could’ be with the right people on council who know about building cities.  I am not just planning Cambridge for today, I am looking to build Cambridge for future generations.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

Best place to find it is on my website, amandamaxwell.com or following on Facebook or Instagram @AmandaForWestGalt where I’ll be sharing videos on how we tackle these issues.  Here are the 3 main issues facing Ward 5:

Planning and Development: (Implementing urban design guidelines, traffic, new development, stopping the Dance Pit expansion)

Revitilizing Downtown: (Supporting BIA, Helping those facing homelessness/mental health issues, Getting truck traffic out of downtown)

Housing: (Looking for underutilized areas, Mixed use buildings, Working with region for subsidized housing)

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

My spare time is spent with my family.  I love baking and cooking with the kids.  Each season we like to make ‘goal’ lists of things we want to do so we’re always off doing something new and exciting!  We love to travel, especially to Europe, and are looking forward to some trips with the kids now that they’re older (the twins are turning 6 and our daughter is turning 4)

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

The thing I have always loved most about Cambridge is that we have three really cool and unique downtowns that each have special shops and restaurants.  What I love most about Ward 5 is the friendly and familiar people, the mature trees in all the ‘older’ neighbourhoods, the river and trails, and shopping and going for dinner downtown.  Cambridge has a lot to offer and in 10 years I hope to see three vibrant downtowns and cohesive development that allows us to keep our charm as we develop for the future.

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Sheri Roberts

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 lived in Ward 5 of Cambridge for over 15 years. I moved here to start my family back in 2007.  I was drawn to Cambridge by the beauty of the city. The heritage aspects, the river, the parks and trails were all reasons I decided to call Cambridge my home. I work for Independent Living of Waterloo Region. We help support individuals with all types of disabilities, from mental health, to developmental, and physical, achieve happiness through independence.  My role there is that of a community resource coordinator.  I connect individuals from our community with resources available in the region. I also offer one on one supports for those requiring assistance navigating the often-complicated social services support system.

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

Beyond the strong desire to help, my educational background (a degree in Economics from McMaster University) along with decades of professional and volunteer experience in the social service sector and in addition, the work I’ve done with the municipality for the last 12 years, makes me well qualified for the community building work required of a city councillor.  Having personally brought projects and programs to the city to make improvements for all residents, I have navigated the system and understand how residents, council and staff can work together to benefit the whole community.  I am passionate about the city and will work very hard to make Ward 5 and all of Cambridge, a place we can all be proud of.

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

The issue I have heard about most often when speaking with residents in Ward 5 is surrounding traffic concerns.  We have a lot of large-scale developments happening in and around our ward and the roads are already quite congested at certain times of days.  Residents are understandably concerned that this will only get worse once the new developments are completed and people move in.  The first thing that I feel needs to be done to manage this, is we need to work with the Region to get the large trucks off the small downtown roads.  Ainslie and Water Street are inundated with massive trucks, and this contributes greatly to the congestion and safety issues in the area.  The city needs to work with regional council to remove the truck route designation on these core roads.

Read more: Meet the Kitchener candidates for regional council

In terms of the most important issue facing the city as a whole, we need to increase our supports for those dealing with mental health concerns.  The city does not fund health care supports so this is again a situation where there needs to be cooperation between the municipality and other levels of government, especially the province.  Supportive housing for those facing mental health issues and homelessness, along with other challenges, is one way to increase the chances of a positive outcome for these folks.  Subsidized therapy for those on limited budgets (i.e. certain income thresholds and ODSP and OW recipients) could go a long way to preventing the escalation of mental health issues.

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

Long-term, I see Cambridge as a place that we can all be proud to call home.  A place that has a thriving downtown with many successful businesses full of residents supporting those businesses and enjoying our beautiful city.  A place where we have the services in place to support residents with whatever challenges they may be facing.   A place that is safe for everyone to live and thrive.  A place where City Council and Staff work together cohesively to make decisions that benefit the entire community.  A place where the voices of residents are being heard and their perspectives are brought with councillors to the horseshoe when decisions are being made.

Q.5 What is your platform?

The key issues I would like to focus on are:

Traffic throughout the city:  One way to improve the flow of traffic in our downtown core is to get the large trucks off the small regional roads.  This means working well with Regional Council.  There also needs to be upstream planning around new developments to ensure that our infrastructure, including roadways, can support the influx of new residents.

Homelessness and mental health/addiction supports:  Again, working with higher levels of government to ensure that funding and services are being properly allocated to Cambridge.  Including supportive housing initiatives in the community will increase the success rate for folks requiring those supports and services.

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Affordable housing:  While this is not a municipal level issue on its own, there are ways for regional council to help support increasing the affordable housing inventory.  Creative problem solving like offering incentives for developers who include affordable units in their developments or who contribute to building of affordable housing developments elsewhere in the city can help to alleviate some of the pressure on the Waterloo Housing system.  Making the process of planning and building affordable housing developments more streamlined to reduce the lag from planning to completion will also assist in getting folks off the extremely long waitlists faster.

Community engagement:  Bringing more events and opportunities for residents to become even more involved in their community is very important to me.  Having an active and thriving community leads to increased success for small businesses, decreased crime/improved safety and an overall positive environment for all residents.  Also, having regular face-to-face and virtual meetings with community members will ensure that I have a good understanding of the issues they are facing and the vision they have for our Ward 5.

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

In my spare time, I spend time with family being as active as possible.  Long walks through our neighbourhoods, bike rides and attending events around town are things we do regularly.  Also, I love to work out.  I am long time member of the YMCA and when it was shut down for a time due to Covid, I started leading virtual workouts online for women across the country who have disabilities.  It’s been a great way to stay connected and physically active these last 2.5 years.

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

Ward 5 is a beautiful blend of old heritage homes and new developments.  I love exploring all the different spots this area has to offer.  The people here are so welcoming and supportive of each other.  It reminds me of my childhood where neighbours truly looked out for one another.  It’s such a great place to raise a family.


Global News was unable to locate an email address to contact Mark D. Fisher with the questions.

 

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