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2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Waterloo regional chair candidates

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

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

It will be a vastly different regional council as six councillors have chosen not to run for re-election, including three of the four in Kitchener, both of the current Cambridge councillors and one of the two in Waterloo.

The mayors of all four townships and all three cities all have a seat at the table as well, and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky and Wilmot Mayor Les Armstrong are also not seeking re-election.

However, Regional Chair Karen Redman will be seeking a second term in office. She won the 2018 race to replace Ken Seiling, who retired after holding the position for decades.

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Two men will oppose Redman during this fall’s election, a list that features social worker and psychotherapist Narine Dat Sookram and financial planner Brendon John Da Costa.

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 Waterloo regional chair, with the candidates being listed in alphabetical order.

Editor’s note: Brendan John Dacosta’s answers were not initially included when this article was published due to to a clerical error.

Brendan John Dacosta

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’m a certified financial planner and have been working in the financial industry for well over a decade –

I’ve lived in Waterloo Region (Kitchener & Waterloo) all of my life – I’m a first generation Canadian to immigrant parents from Portugal who chose Kitchener to start a family nearly 40 years ago. I attended the University of Waterloo, and currently live in the south end of Kitchener close to the college.

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

I’m not a career politician, which means I’m not interested in votes; I’m interested in doing the right thing for this Region. I may not have the political experience of some of my opponents, but I’m a tried and true middle class worker – I see the struggles that the average citizen faces every day. Currently, I operate as a certified financial planner, and have managed large amounts of business for over a decade –

I have a degree in Psychology and Legal Studies and Criminology where I focused on mental health in the criminal justice system, and ran a sizable volunteer organization throughout my time at the University of Waterloo.

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

The rising cost of living is deeply troubling – this is impacting affordability at many different levels, whether it’s affordable housing, homelessness, inflation, or the cost of the Region to operate with the steep level of taxes we already pay.

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

My long-term goals for the Region of Waterloo are to develop land for small businesses, implement a first-time home buyers housing initiative, rehaul infrastructure projects and public transit, externally audit our budget, minimize reliance on taxes, improve our police forces, implement mental health and addiction centers, and engage the community more proactively in how and where money is spent.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

My platform is extensive, but primarily focuses on affordability in the region (housing, homelessness, taxes), infrastructural quality: including both public and private transportation & land development for small business and homeowners/renters, addiction and crime, budgetary transparency, and community engagement.

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

I’m a hands-on kind of person, so I love to work on cars and tend to my vegetable garden – on a typical day you’ll find me cruising through the countryside or swimming in the pool with a brew in hand. I tend to hibernate in the winter, so that’s when I enjoy picking up a good book, catching the latest flicks, or being a general nerd and playing games with friends.

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

The community – I purchased my first house in 2019 just prior to the pandemic, and I’m thankful every day that I found a great area with fantastic neighbours all around me that made a very difficult few years so much more tolerable.

Narine Dat Sookram

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.)

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I work as a social worker and have lived in the Region of Waterloo for almost 30 years. More details can be found here: www.narinedatsookram.com

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

Apart from being a licensed diversity, equity and inclusion trainer, I am well-educated with over a dozen college/university degrees. I have a broad experience in a variety of sectors in both for profits and not-for-profits, including my roles as a vocational rehabilitation specialist and a social worker/psychotherapist. In addition, I have 20-plus years in volunteering here in the Region of Waterloo where I have been recognized with over two hundred awards and believe that I am a perfect fit for the regional chair role.

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

The disconnect between politicians and the people.

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

Narrow the gap in service delivery and put people before profit.

Q.5 What is your platform?

A healthy democracy requires a concerted effort and positive collaboration between local politicians and the residents they represent, and to have an open-door policy of listening more and talking less or even better still, go the extra mile to accomplish and tackle issues of concern and implement the necessary changes that are necessary.  As I see it, the responsibility of the regional chair is to help bridge the existing GAP that has been widening over the years.

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Closing the gap in whatever the grievance of the community happens to be, based on what arises and what had in the past been neglected.

Leadership is about bringing all levels to the table, staff, elected representatives, and the people we serve and guide the process to solve issues.

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

Listening to music and going for walks.

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

The people.

Karen Redman

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 lifelong resident of Waterloo Region. Raised in Preston, Cambridge, I currently reside in Kitchener. I am seeking re-election as Regional Chair in the upcoming election, a position I’ve held since 2018. Prior to serving as chair, I was the Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity in Waterloo Region. I have previously served in public office as a Member of Parliament. I bring over 25 years of political experience to the role.

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

My primary motivation for participating in politics stems from a desire to serve my community. It’s a tremendous opportunity to contribute to positive change and to advocate on behalf of individuals whose voices are not always heard at the decision-making table. Regardless of the level of government, the issues are diverse and solutions are complex and challenging. I come into this election with extensive experience in public service at the federal and school board levels, as well as municipal. While that broad experience is always beneficial, I often draw on my experience in Parliament as a Whip and engage those skills in engaging diverse stakeholders in a unified solution. Our best work for our community is accomplished by building consensus and finding common ground.

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

My priorities for the Region are housing attainability; supporting future prosperity with infrastructure investments; and working with community and government partners to ensure mental health supports/health services are available for residents. Waterloo Region is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada and it’s important for the region’s leadership to improve opportunities for growth, prosperity and social responsiveness.

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

I am committed to us working towards an inclusive, equitable, thriving and sustainable community with connected rural and urban communities and a global reach that fosters opportunities for current and future residents.

Q.5 What is your platform?

Municipal government has a direct impact on all of us and offers the opportunity to build and shape our community for our future. As the Chair, I lead the conversation on identifying the Region’s priorities for growth, prosperity and social responsiveness. Everyday is important as Regional Chair. I see the priorities after the election to be facilitating consensus at Council as we deal with challenges such as affordable housing, shelter services and budget preparations.

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

My greatest pleasure is spending time with our four grown children and five grandchildren who all reside in the region.  I belong to a Zumba studio, which provides me with an engaging outlet and physical exercise. I enjoy crossword puzzles, reading and live theatre.

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

Waterloo Region is my home.  I embrace the vibrancy of a thriving community that despite being one of the fastest growing communities in Canada still has a hometown feel.  For generations, people have invested their time, talent and funds to make sure we care for our environment, provide for newcomers and immigrants and make sure that no one is left behind.

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