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2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Cambridge 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 Cambridge, Waterloo Region’s second-largest city, will select two people to send to regional council as well as their mayor.

It will be a vastly different look to regional council as the councillors from Cambridge, Karl Keifer and Helen Jowett, as well as a number of others from other parts of the region, will not be seeking re-election this fall.

The race to replace Keifer and Jowett should be very intriguing as it features a number of familiar names to those who follow politics in Cambridge.

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Former mayor Doug Craig and current Ward 5 Coun. Pam Wolf might be the most notable although WRDSB Trustee Crystal Whetham should also be a familiar name as well.

Former journalist Tyler Calver and Bobbi Stewart have also sought office in the area while Cambridge businessman Prakash Venkatearaman is probably the only one who could be considered to be a political newcomer among the bunch.

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 Cambridge, with the candidates being listed in alphabetical order. (This page will be updated if more candidates choose to respond.):

Tyler Calver

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 Tyler Calver, I’m a former journalist with CTV News with over 15 years’ experience as a reporter. I’m currently employed with the Ontario Government in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I’m a proud Cambridge resident and proud Canadian.

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

Working in this region as a journalist for CTV News has given me the opportunity to speak with thousands of people and understand the complex and various local issues first-hand. In my current employment with the Ontario Government in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I have developed a strong understanding of government, and how provincial politics intersects with municipalities – such as funding and project approvals. Together, with my deep knowledge of local issues, experience working in government, and my passion for public service, this has prepared me to represent the people of Cambridge on regional council.

Beyond that, I am a good listener and am passionate about the people in this community. Old ways won’t open new doors, we need new people on Council who will bring fresh ideas.

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

There are many important issues facing the city of Cambridge. However, if I were to pick the most pressing issue facing the city today it would be addressing growing homelessness and rising crime and ending encampments.

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

I want to see the downtowns of Galt, Preston, and Hespeler revitalized and grow into thriving areas. I see the enormous potential that these three communities have to become popular destinations for restaurants and coffee shops, and where people can come shop, relax and visit in a safe environment.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

• Address rising homelessness and end encampments
• Better access to drug treatment, such as detox beds, and mental health supports
• Tackle rising crime in our city
• Reduce red tape and barriers that limit growth and development, especially for housing
• Lower property taxes
• Improving traffic congestion by building the infrastructure our city needs and establishing Go Train service to Cambridge
• Advocate for more long-term care beds and improved healthcare services in our region

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

I love the outdoors, so I spend a lot of time using the parks and trails in Cambridge. I enjoy gardening, doing home renovations, volunteering and participating in community clean-ups.

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

My favourite thing about living in Cambridge is the people. Cambridge is a growing city that has maintained its charm and character. I am blessed to have the best neighbours. I live in a predominately Portuguese neighbourhood and everyone is so kind and friendly, we all look out for one another. I also regularly receive homemade Portuguese meals passed over the fence. I couldn’t ask for better neighbours.

Bobbi Stewart

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 retired social worker with extensive experience in program management, casework and clinical social work. Over my 35-year career, I have been pleased and honoured to support children and youth, families, seniors and people seeking employment including immigrants.

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I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ont., and Dad ran the local corner grocery store. It was there and then that I first learned about small business, the importance of community and to support each other to be healthy and to take care of our families.

I left Niagara for Guelph, to attend University of Guelph where I earned a BA with a major in music. I raised my three daughters in Guelph and for a period of 10 years I held down full-time social services jobs while working evenings and weekends as a crisis worker for Family & Children’s Services. I returned to school at the age of 49 and earned a Masters of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University, thanks to the support of my family. I retired from child protection in 2015 after a 35-year career handling agency and program management, casework, group facilitation, clinical and community development and social work with agencies such as Family & Children’s Services, Big Brothers, Victoria Order of Workers, Working for Work and St. Luke’s Place providing service and support to children, families, unemployed, immigrants and seniors.

I moved to Cambridge in March 2007 after 35 years in Guelph.

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

When I look back at my professional career I see that my experience, both paid and volunteer, fits very well with the kind of teamwork needed for municipal politicians.

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I am all about health and well-being, community and collaboration and I view everything through the lens of social justice and the environment. I am a fresh face in municipal politics, a good listener and I believe strongly in the importance of direct conversations in order to make the best things happen.

I am an optimistic person. In these very difficult times with the increased polarization we see between people of different experiences and world views, I believe that an open, non-reactive, non-judgmental attitude is very important for all of us, but particularly for those in public office.

I see people’s strengths first, rather than their faults or weaknesses. I love people, to listen to them and to hear their personal stories. As a regional councillor representing Cambridge, I will seek input from constituents and do the necessary research to help me make what I believe are wise decisions. I will then network and collaborate with my colleagues at the regional council table.

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

The most crucial and concerning issue for the residents of Waterloo Region is the combined situation of the opioid crisis, mental health and homelessness.

It’s important for people to know and understand that people who use drugs often use them because they have been traumatized at some point in their lives, often in early childhood. They use substances to give themselves respite from the pain. Then, for many, they become addicted and their lives are changed forever. Add job loss, poverty, homelessness and further trauma and loss to the mix and we have people among us who are really struggling.

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We need better access to mental health services and we need more services so that people don’t have to wait months for service. If a person is in a mental health crisis, they need help immediately and to start their follow up treatment as soon to as possible. When someone survives a drug overdose, the same applies in terms of follow up and treatment.

I observed on Aug. 11 as regional council approved as a series of measures to help ease the growing homelessness crisis. This included a first-ever decision to permit an encampment.

The new plan has four major components: expanding the transitional housing program, expanding home-based supports to help people find and pay for affordable housing, creating an additional emergency shelter space and the first ever decision to permit an encampment.

The biggest challenge will be the need for funding and to support the plan without raising taxes, or at least without raising them more than the rate of inflation. We will need to reach out to the provincial and federal governments and to push until we get what we need. I will take leadership in this advocacy and also to ensure that the good work of community groups such as The House of Friendship, The Aids Committee of Cambridge, Waterloo and Kitchener (AKKWA), Sanguen Healthier Centre and The Bridges receive the resources they need to provide these services to those at greatest need in our communities.

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

My long-term goals include sustainable solutions to the opioid crisis, mental health, homelessness and affordability for all. As we work through these solutions, The Region will also begin implementation of the recently passed Strategic Plan to 2051.

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I have observed closely over the past few months as Region of Waterloo staff and councillors worked on this plan. The goal was to build enough housing for the expected influx of new population over the next 30 years, but to do this with minimal use of agricultural land. Many individuals and groups presented their detailed, informed perspective and all are to be commended for their input. I am very proud to be part of a community where so many people care so much and so deeply for their communities. The end result is a vibrant, balanced Strategic Plan which offers a mixture of housing, walkable communities and where a minimal amount of farmland will be lost to development.

Q.5 What is your platform?

I will support political colleagues, community partners and regional staff in the implementation of the following:

• Strategic Plan to 2051. Elected or not, I will watch closely as housing is built and will raise my concerns when I see something that is not in keeping with this plan. I will watch to see that the environment is protected and that everyone, regardless of their income, ethnicity or sexual identity has the opportunity to success and to thrive.

• Regarding homelessness;

• Consumption Treatment Services at 150 Main Street;

• Conestoga Students Inc.’s request for equity and affordable transit for Conestoga students.

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I will listen, ask questions and research new issues as they arise in order to make what I believe are wise decisions at the Regional Council table. I will meet with individuals and community groups as part of this process. I will support the implementation of new programs and services as they are raised by community members and politicians throughout my tenure as regional councillor.

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

I was raised with music, played the accordion and competed across southern Ontario and Western New York as a child. I sang in the first Guelph Chamber Choir at the University of Guelph and played in a Country Dance band in the ‘90s. In later years I danced at many middle–eastern dance recitals.

I still love all kinds of music and jump at the chance to sing karaoke. I walk and visit with friends, spend time with my husband, children, grandchildren and aging relatives.

I am a political and community activist and spend a significant amount of time in collaboration and organizing.

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

My husband and I were drawn to the Preston part of Cambridge by Preston’s Settler’s Fork, the river, the confluence and the trail that runs all along between Hamilton and Bishop streets. I had been coming into Cambridge from Guelph for decades and was also drawn to the wonderful village feel of Hespeler, its quaint shops and the waterfalls at Jacob’s Landing and the great blue heron. The river is also such a draw in Galt, our precious Ontario jewel when it comes to beautiful stone buildings, arched bridges and vibrant downtown. As you can see, I’m having difficulty narrowing my favourite things down to one!

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Prakash Venkataraman

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 Prakash Venkataraman, your neighbour. My family moved into the old satellite motel on Hespeler Road when we were getting started. Our sons were born at Cambridge Memorial Hospital and raised family in Cambridge over the last 22 years.

An engineer and entrepreneur who knows what it’s like to start something from nothing, grow it into revenue and operations in the millions, balance a budget and meet a payroll.

Supported over a dozen local charities and groups in raising significant funds for causes that make Cambridge stronger.

Recognized with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, Region of Waterloo Cultural Diversity Champion, Ernst and Young Canada Entrepreneur of the Year, Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and more.

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

I am running to begin the transformation of regional council to reflect its success and its diversity. I am a positive example of both.

Regional council is a large institution with big budgets, responsibilities, and services to provide.

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I know how and have desire to include those who have felt left out. I know many are struggling. Together we need to get the real and important work done on time, on budget, on target.

Waterloo Region is Ontario’s innovation capital. I am confident we can better address many of the anxieties affecting our cities and region like affordability, smart growth, and sustaining the services each community needs.

It takes leadership and an ability to get the important work done. I offer both.

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

Affordable housing and more housing supply, homelessness, neighborhood safety, transit, and economic development. Proper funding allocation to our region from federal and provincial partners to address mental health wraparound services and effective policing to maintain law and order.

We need to focus on delivering the core services of what our community needs. Responsible growth is a must before spending our tax dollars on unproven ideas that are not the region’s responsibility. We need get the priorities straight and ignore “nice-to-do,” projects.

Spending is not currently based on the population and not equally distributed. Kitchener and Waterloo get bigger pieces of the pie and Cambridge is getting the leftovers. What must be done, needs to get done first.

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We need to work as our first priority to reduce barriers to building more housing faster and smarter. Identify the areas where we could develop four season trailer parks, take inventories of abandoned buildings to look at potential conversion, and also certain buildings owned by the Region and City to have density and height restrictions revisited and lease it to developers to build and operate affordable rentals.

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

There are too many opportunities, so little time, and too many are out of time to secure safe, long-term housing. The list is not getting any shorter on a daily basis. It’s a crisis and as a developed nation, it’s not acceptable to see our own people suffer. If we don’t take care of our own citizens, no one else will.

I would like to address and strongly advocate with potential immediate and long-term solutions on the homelessness, affordable housing, neighborhood safety, Economic development, better transit, more funding allocation for mental health and wrap around services, seniors and law and order.

I would like to make sure our city and region stands as number one model in every aspect for the entire Canada.

You work hard for your money; the Region should work harder to ensure it is spent wisely.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

Prakash’s Pledge – Follow the money: Using my experience and skills I’ve learnt in my own businesses to right-size how the Region operates: strengthen accountability measures, increase disclosure on spending and decision-making, and create a culture where all employees are empowered to question the status-quo in order to break the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality.

Get the priorities in check, ignore the distractions: What must be done, needs to get done first. We need to focus on delivering the core services of what our community needs. Attainable housing, neighborhood safety, transit investments, responsible growth before spending our tax dollars on unproven ideas that aren’t the Region’s responsibility.

Renegotiate the region’s program and services commitment to Cambridge: Ensure Cambridge gets our fair share of investment and value for the tax dollars sent to Waterloo Region:

Knowing the right questions to ask and where to look for opportunities to save money by right-sizing inefficiencies will make it happen.

Improving affordability: I know how to attract federal and provincial investment dollars that will transform Cambridge and Waterloo Region, to ensure that you or your grandkids don’t end up paying for high-cost projects you didn’t agree to.

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

I am professional musician for the last 40 years since the age of nine and have performed over 4,000 stages across the world. In my spare time I practice music, nurture arts, music and dance, active motorbike rider through country roads, and cook for my family and friends as a passionate chef. Meeting friends, spending time with my immediate family and extended families in our community is also one of my top priorities.

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

Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo are not too big or too small. We have everything one would like to live, play, and work in a place to call it home and this is my home, and it would be my honor to represent everyone.


Global News has also reached out to Doug Craig, Crystal Whetham and Pam Wolf but has not received a response as of publication. This copy will be updated as further answers arrive.

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