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2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Kitchener Ward 4 council candidates

The front entrance of Kitchener 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 Kitchener, the region’s largest city, will elect councillors in 10 wards as well as a mayor to form city council.

There will be at least three new faces in place, as Ward 3 Coun. John Gazzola, Ward 5 Coun. Kelly Galloway Sealock and Ward 10 Coun. Sarah Marsh have chosen not to seek re-election.

In Ward 4, Christine Michaud is seeking a second term in office but she will have to fend off challenges from Ali Akbar and John Vandonk.

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.

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

Ali Akbar

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 Ali Akbar, and I am running for Kitchener City Councillor ward 4.

I am a project management professional and I have a PMP designation. I have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering which I earned at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. I am a project manager, 5G construction with Bell Mobility, and I am currently working on projects to build infrastructure for 5G technology throughout Southern Ontario.

Apart from my primary work with Bell, I am an entrepreneur and I have a budding rideshare company currently operating in the city of Cambridge-Kitchener-Waterloo. My company RideON Canada provides competitive prices for passengers while putting more money in the pockets of drivers.

I am a part-time project management instructor at Lambton College in Toronto and I am dedicated to helping people excel in their careers.

I immigrated to Canada in 2009 and lived in Cambridge before travelling to B.C. to further my education.

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I have been living in the Doon South area of Kitchener for the last 10 years with my wife and three children.

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

I am passionate about making a difference in the community and helping others. I want to make sure every resident (youth, adult and senior) has what they need to succeed with a healthy lifestyle. But I can’t do this alone, I’m going to need your support.

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

The most important issue facing my ward is the safety and security of the community. There has been an increase in theft and an increase in traffic. Neighbourhoods have become unsafe for pedestrians/cyclists. I want to see an increase in police presence in my ward to prevent theft and break-ins and I want to implement traffic calming strategies to ensure people feel safe in their homes.

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

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I will work with the Digital Kitchener strategy team to make sure everyone can access digital tools and the internet. Expand the free public Wi-Fi footprint and build a smart city which connects and innovates new technologies to improve the lives of Kitchener residents. Increase the presence of smart sensors and cameras to collect real-time data for public safety, security and health.

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Q.5 What is your platform?

• Moving Kitchener forward
• Protect our neighbourhood
• Protect our environment
• Responsible development
• Create quality jobs
• Transparency & accountability
• Affordable housing
• Lower municipal taxes

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

I like to spend time with my family and participate in outdoor recreational activities with my friends/family.

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

My favourite things about living here are the natural areas and trails.

Christine Michaud

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.)

Christine Is the incumbent in Ward 4 Kitchener. Born and raised in Kitchener Christine attended Sheppard Public, Sunnyside Sr Public and Eastwood Collegiate. With a post-secondary education in Journalism she became a Features Editor for the Kitchener Waterloo Record where she worked for 26 years. She currently works in the non-profit sector as Director of Development for the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, serving women and children in our community.

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

In 2018 I worked hard to earn the honour to serve as the Ward 4 representative, and it has been my privilege to work with many citizens over the past four years. Ward 4 will continue to see tremendous growth, and there is more work to do to ensure responsible development with connected communities and I will continue my collaborative work with council and city staff toward building a more inclusive, creative, and active Kitchener with balanced growth.

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

In Ward 4, traffic and pedestrian safety are the number one concerns I hear most often from residents. The City as a whole it would be the affordable housing and homelessness crisis we are in.

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

Continue to work on connecting communities with the proper infrastructure to allow residents to travel from place to place easily and safely whether it’s cycling, transit or driving. Make Kitchener the city where no one sleeps on the streets.

Q.5 What is your platform?

Safe Streets & Neighbourhoods – Everyone deserves to live in a community where they feel safe, not only in the home but on the street as well. I am committed to the City’s goal of Vision Zero and fully support traffic-calming measures across the city, including lowering the speed limit to 40K on all city residential streets and 30K in school zones, speed cushions, in-road flex signs and neighbourhood traffic calming initiatives. I will continue working with City and Regional staff and council, WRPS and neighbourhood groups in Ward 4 to ensure our streets are safe for everyone and I will advocate for automated speed enforcement cameras in all school zones.

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Environmental responsibilities – Council declared a climate emergency in 2019. Balancing growth in a city this size while protecting our natural heritage system is challenging, but it’s imperative in today’s climate emergency. I am committed to Holding the Countryside Line and saving our protected wetlands.

Responsible Development & Complete Neighbourhoods – New developments in or near established neighbourhoods can be a balancing act. I will continue to work with existing homeowners, city planners, engineers and developers to ensure that the integrity of design and structure compliments existing neighbourhoods.

Local parks are an essential piece of development for every community as they create a sense of belonging and a healthy lifestyle. Along with my council colleagues, I supported the Places &  Spaces: Parks and Open Space Strategy, a progressive and equity-driven report on the nature of parkland in Kitchener. If elected next term, I will advocate for more creative park spaces in Ward 4.

Affordable Housing/Homelessness – A person’s worth should not depend on their ability to pay rent. As a member of the Advisory Council for Kitchener’s Housing for All strategy, the goal is to create 450 supportive housing units for homeless people, 5,000 community housing units for people with low incomes and 9,000 affordable rental housing units by 2025. Some measures to date include the YW Block Line Project which houses 41 single women who were experience homelessness, and adopting zoning bylaws to allow Tiny Homes in Back Yards. I will continue to work with all levels of government, community partners, council and staff to find more solutions for this complex problem to make housing for everyone a reality.

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Equity and Inclusion – We are fortunate to live in such a diverse city with the opportunity to learn about many cultures. I am proud to be a member of a Council when an Equity & Anti-racism Advisory Committee was established earlier this year. Since then, the committee has created the Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Equity Fund.

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

Sitting on many different committees and spending time with my new grandson and taking walks with my dog along the Grand River on our beautiful trail system.

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

Kitchener has that unique supportive and inclusive quality not found in many cities its size. I am passionate about all this city has to offer. It’s the people that make the city, and it has been my privilege to work with many residents over the past four years on city-wide committees or closer to home in Ward 4. Our city has excellent trail and cycling systems which will continue to expand towards making more connected communities.

John Vandonk

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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The reason I believe I am the right person for the job because I am a very good listener as well as a good learner. The biggest complaint I have heard from the residents is the current council does not take into account the concerns of the residents when making decisions that affect them, they only listen to the developers/speculators/investors!

I will listen to the residents concerns and strongly consider them before making my decision!

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

I have a history as a Union Leader in our community for many years to address many issues & concerns that affected our members as well as other members in our community.

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

Lack of affordable/accessible housing and jomelessness (Issues go hand-in-hand) as one issue! Urban sprawl which is destroying our farmland/green spaces/wetlands and our creek’s and waterways.

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

Attaining housing for all members of our community, protecting the environment and attaining net zero carbon emissions for our community.

Q.5 What is your platform?

Please view my website: https://johnvandonk.com/.

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

Play golf and read a lot.

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

I find our citizens are quite caring of all members of our community and I find we are moving forward with supporting and including all marginalized groups into our community. Lots of activities in our community to partake in!

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