2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Cambridge mayoral candidates

File photo of Cambridge City Hall. 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.

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

Liggett is one of three people who are challenging incumbent Mayor Kathryn McGarry, who is seeking a second term in office. The former Cambridge MP is also being challenged by Randy Carter and Cody Botelho.

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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:

Jan Liggett

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

I have been immersed for the past eight years serving you, the citizens of Cambridge, as an elected councillor, as well as serving on numerous committees of city and regional council. For decades, I have contributed as a volunteer on a variety of committees of council.

I know our community intimately having dedicated my time and energies for the past 35 years to raising a family here, volunteering across a spectrum of organizations and causes, while running a successful internationally known business. As a business owner I know what a business looks for in a community in order to grow/or invest. The cost of raw materials, shipping, utilities, labour, rent, debt service and taxes all take a toll on business and affect the cost of our goods and services. As a resident I know what it takes to feel secure and want a level of services that my family needs.

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Like you, I know how it feels to pay taxes and entrust my elected officials to spend it wisely. I live in Cambridge and I am invested in Cambridge in the true sense of the word. My life’s work has been dedicated to making our community a place for everyone to call home. When a mayor or councillor has the privileged position of setting taxes yet not having to endure those same taxes, and still reaping the services and a paycheque paid for by us, that’s a problem. As someone who pays full residential and industrial municipal taxes by not only residing but having a business in our community, I experience the same taxes and repercussions as you do and in the same manner.

I believe in being prepped for the negative and then being wowed by the positive. I am well prepared to confront the challenges ahead as your Mayor.

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

While there are numerous issues that are important to residents, I’m hearing wherever I go that our community’s mental illness and addiction crises are top of mind. Coupled with homelessness and increased levels of crime, these conditions are deep-rooted, and demand the full attention of elected officials at all levels of government. I’m already confronting this task head on.

People are living on the streets, injecting, dealers in every part of our community, human defecation, needles in the alleyways, parks, school grounds and crime throughout. Tragically, mentally-affected souls wander our downtowns and our neighbourhoods, stand at the grocery stores yelling at no one, smash shop windows.

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Few of us have been immune to the deaths. I believe we can all agree that people are dying at an alarming rate from poison-laced drugs. The argument for or against having a SIS/CTS in a community started long before fentanyl became the bigger problem.

As an elected official I have had to determine first whether CTS’s are what they are advertised to be or whether there needs to be something better in place. By better I mean something that will not put the greater community at risk and at the same time stop, slow down and possibly place the addiction of drugs in remission.

By locating a CTS anywhere in a community, we have to realize that no matter where it is we will be creating a centre of wretched despair and suffering. Therefore, the question needs to be asked “where are we willing for this to be created, which neighbourhood are we willing to destroy?”

There are many who would be aghast at that statement but you need look no further than Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco.

There are many who would be aghast at that statement but for examples of what does not work, but only reinforces the suffering, look at Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco.

To stem the flow of misery, those living with addictions need free, repeated if necessary, long term for both genders, rapid access to rehab and detox treatment, something that doesn’t exist. That is where money is best spent. Mental health facilities and sufficient staffing are like mythical creatures.

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There is an urgent need to wrap our heads around mandatory rehab and mental health treatment through the courts. Without them we will never be able to restore human dignity let alone law and order. We will continue to engage in philosophical circular conversations and arguments out of which policies are created and yet which never seem to address the crisis; we need measures that work and we need them urgently.

If we don’t make sure our community remains healthy while trying to come to grips with this tragic misery, then anything we do will only make matters worse and people will continue to die.

During my first term as a councillor, I identified the magnitude of these interconnected issues and in 2017, I laid the groundwork for seeking lasting and systemic solutions. Council approved the Cambridge Community Outreach Task Force, which led directly to the establishment of the Community Wellbeing Advisory Committee in 2018 by council under Mayor Craig to commence by 2019. I was elected as chair for one-year terms, three consecutive times and remain committed to the overall wellbeing of this community.

Funding is key, and it will be my job representing Cambridge to advocate at every level of government to provide sufficient and timely funding to resolve these problems. I’ll press our regional councillors, provincial MPP, and federal MP to reinforce funding for those services we currently have, identify gaps that demand action, and advocate to meet the increasing pressure for public services as our population grows. Our infrastructure facilities and professional personnel must be capable of meeting our needs, right here in our community. This is a top priority.

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

Having spent the last eight years as a member of Cambridge council representing you, I feel it is time to apply my acquired knowledge of this community and your needs to the next level; that being your mayor.

During those eight years, many good things have been accomplished and I want to continue to build on those. We have a lot of growing to do and the potential of great prosperity.

Community engagement must be re-established as a normal, expected, and healthy function of public discourse through the municipal decision making process. We together must re-discover the spirit and substance of listening to and hearing from each other, the satisfaction and joy of acting as a unified and informed community. You need to be assured that someone cares and not feel disillusioned by the current political climate.

I want you to feel excited about living in Cambridge and its future while we get things done. Under my leadership, civic participation will be invited and welcome, I offer that promise. I want to hear about the thoughtful, insightful ideas you may have for your and my community.

Heritage + Environment + Development = Livability

Thoughtful development that respects our unique location in the Grand River valley, that respects our existing built heritage, and respects the natural environment will get my support.

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I have a desire to continue to work on the goal of developing a comprehensive strategy that addresses the challenges that climate change presents us all. I am dedicated to ensuring our infrastructure and long term planning is evidence-based, and will continue to pursue raising community resilience, practices, and infrastructure to withstand current and future climate related risks.

Q.5 What is your platform?

I have a postcard that is being distributed to households and businesses across Cambridge with an ‘at a glance’ overview of my platform, plus on my campaign website is a page entitled ‘Vision’ where I spell out in detail where I stand on important issues.

Community-wide safety and health, transparency and accountability, preserving our built and natural heritage, activities for all ages and renewing community pride represent just a small sample of what I am devoted to delivering.

Decades of underinvestment in affordable housing have created a significant infrastructure deficit of one of our most important needs. Since 2014, we have gone from 3,000 households on the waiting list for affordable housing to a wait list of over 8,000. This has also increased the wait times drastically. These increases in numbers can be attributed to remains of the last recession, COVID, past closing of mental health facilities, demolition of lower cost housing stock, and unpreparedness for retirement, fluctuating housing prices, and renovictions among other reasons. Not all but much of the social ills we see on the streets, such as the tent cities and addicts, can be led back to lack of housing, supportive or otherwise. Children and seniors cannot feel safe without living in dignity, in a safe, comfortable and healthy home. One solution is in government-led housing, partnering with not-for-profit and private developers, and major funding from the provincial and federal governments. When I hear funding is being applied to create 17,000 or 10,000 homes for the entire country, I become concerned that won’t come close to what is needed right here locally .When the funds and the land are made available it will take some time before construction companies are able to put the shovel in the ground to completion ready for habitation.

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As mayor, I will join with the region to put forward our joint petitioning of neediness to the higher level governments as Cambridge alone cannot properly address this issue. The ability of our tax payers to pay must be taken in consideration at all times.

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

I currently have a fulfilling life as well as having the responsibilities of a sitting member of council. When I have spare time I spend it with my family or around the house, gardening and reading.

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

The opportunities! This is a great place to raise a family – which we’ve done, and now our grandchildren are thriving here as well. I love the differences in our community, the architecture, the cultures, distinct neighbourhoods, the natural environment of this river valley. And the people – I’m fortunate to have met so many people who have made my life more meaningful.

Kathryn McGarry

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 invested in Cambridge and an active volunteer and advocate for people and issues that matter for 34 years. We have raised our six children here. As a registered nurse for 35 years, I have cared for our most vulnerable and sickest neighbours in the community, emergency room and ICU (CMH). I was the Cambridge MPP and a Cabinet Minister, (2014-18), and have been the mayor and regional councillor (2018-present).

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I am known as a competent, collaborative community builder: a founding member of the Hospice of Waterloo, chair of the Cambridge Heritage Master Plan and Dickson Hill Heritage Conservation District, member of the Crime Prevention Council WR, (endorsed my candidacy).

The YWCA recognized me as a Woman of Distinction, I am a Bernice Adams (Arts awards) special trustee, and am honoured to recently receive the Queen’s Platinum pin for service to Cambridge.

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

I believe I am the right person to lead Cambridge because it’s a critical time. Strong, committed leadership is needed to steer Cambridge post pandemic. I have served at three out of four levels of government and have the knowledge and skillset required to move Cambridge forward. It requires an experienced, steady hand, not one that seeks a fight but a seasoned one with strong relationships that delivers collaborative solutions benefiting everyone. I’m committed to continue creating an exciting, fun, prosperous and inclusive City together!

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

Lack of social services support is the single biggest issue faced by all the residents of Cambridge.

The increasing number of people experiencing homelessness, mental health and addiction issues is unprecedented, has worsened over the pandemic and is a national issue. These issues are complex and needs all four levels of Government working together to help find solutions. I have strong collaborative relationships with service providers, elected officials and have been advocating for increased funding to provide more housing and Mental Health and Addictions supports, as health care is a provincial responsibility.

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I spearheaded the establishment of the Community Well Being Advisory Committee to help find Cambridge-made solutions to the root causes of homelessness. (Poverty, low income, racism, exclusion, etc) My years of experience at the Crime Prevention Council helped me establish those key relationships. (CPC has endorsed my candidacy). Our city can help by building more supports such as recreational activities focused on Youth that will contribute to increased resilience, critical to prevent another generation from suffering.

Cambridge has partnered with others a (Habitat for Humanity, Indwell) and will continue to create more affordable housing options to deliver on our Regional Homelessness Master Plan and will continue to leverage more funding to build more affordable units.

Supporting the work of police, Cambridge by-law team, neighbourhood associations, outreach and mental health workers, helps make a safer community. Establishing a CTS site will decrease public drug use, reduce 911 calls and connect people to services. More people living and working in downtown core areas helps improve safety, support our local businesses, and achieve revitalization.

Ontario is the only province in Canada that pays for social services at the municipal rather than the provincial level. Along with Big City Mayors, I have had advocated that that needs to change.

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

We are in an exciting time for our beautiful city, rated as 1 of the top 20 prettiest cities in Canada and with one of the hottest economies in Ontario! Nestled along the Banks of the Heritage Grand River, Cambridge is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, with our excellent location near major transit, close to the US border, top tier talent, excellent Universities and College campuses,

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I want to continue building an exciting, prosperous, affordable and connected community… one that focuses on environmental sustainability, vibrant arts and culture, fostering an inclusive , safer community that welcomes diversity and more 15 minute communities. We need to plan our future infrastructure carefully to achieve our goals of building this city for future growth. This is what our strategic plan is all about…Cambridge Connected…written by our community.

Placemaking activities turn our city into everyone’s backyard and turns strangers into friend.

Placemaking creates the Free space and engaging activities that makes for an inclusive, vibrant and united community. When people engage in public play, they feel happiness and are connected to their surroundings and neighbours. Play gives people energy to do amazing things, take pride in what they create and where they live.

World-class talent and businesses are attracted to this energy. My goal is to co-create more placemaking opportunities so we can all share in having fun and getting to know each other better.

Q.5 What is your platform?

Affordable, Prosperous and Connected Cambridge

• To keep it that way, we need to build enough housing families cn actually afford, keep bringing good jobs to the area, and create more community spaces that bring all of us together again.

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• It’s why we’re building more homes to meet the demand in our community, so that our children and their families can afford to call Cambridge home for years to come.

• It’s why we’ve worked so hard to attract new jobs and to support existing small businesses, because families should be able to work in the same community they live in. The recently announced 1000 jobs for the warehouse is just the tip of the iceberg: the industrial lands in North Cambridge Business Park are provincially significant employment lands.

• It’s why we merged EnergyPlus with Brantford Power into the seventh largest municipally owned electricity distributor…GrandBridge Energy, stabilizing rates for the next ten years by keeping our energy affordable, dependable, and local.

• As we grow, we need to hold on to what makes Cambridge special: the culture and heritage we’re known for that has drawn families to our community since its founding. Some reduce that culture and heritage to simple bricks and mortar. I believe our story as a city is bigger than that. Because in Cambridge, our heritage is our people.

• That’s why we need to ensure that our growth benefits all of us. Every new job and new resident we attract to our city creates an economic ripple effect that can be invested in better community services and a stronger social safety net.

• It’s how we’re moving ahead with a new recreation complex, updating and building more arenas, erecting new soccer fields, paving new pickle ball courts, establishing disc golf, a national archery range, and improving local trails.

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• It’s how we’re increasing public safety by supporting the work of our police and mental health professionals while introducing cameras in the Preston core and lowering road speeds near every school in our community.

• It’s how we’re creating more affordable housing options to deliver on our regional homelessness strategy, so we can ensure every one of us has a safe place to call home in Cambridge.

• It’s why we established the Community Well-being Advisory Committee, to find Cambridge-made solutions to homelessness, mental health and substance use, and community safety issues, while creating new opportunities for youth and older adults.

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

Spare time? Lol. Walking, skiing, cycling, spending time with our family and grandchildren, travel, attend community events.

Global News was unable to locate email addresses for Randy Carter and Cody Botelho in order to send them the questions.

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