My commitments to the residents of Waterloo Region
My commitments to create affordable and supportive housing
In 2013, Waterloo region's homeless shelters served almost 3,500 men, women and children. There are more than 3,000 households on the waiting list for affordable housing, and the wait is getting longer each year. There are 1,500 households waiting for supportive housing, and many of those households are homeless and struggling with mental illness and addictions.
The Region's new Affordable Housing Strategy aims to create 350 new affordable units by 2019. That’s nowhere near enough.
* I will work to have Regional Council double its target and create 700 new units of affordable and supportive housing by 2019.
* I will work with federal and provincial levels of government to secure adequate capital and operating funding.
* I will work with our area municipalities to implement local tools and incentives, such as waiving or reducing application fees, providing grants to offset development charges, reducing parking requirements, and density bonusing, to encourage developers to increase the supply of affordable housing.
* I will work with our area municipalities to plan strategies to overcome neighbourhood resistance to affordable and supportive housing.
My commitments to relieve and reduce poverty
50,000 of our neighbours, most of them children, live in deep poverty, and many more struggle each month to pay the rent and put food on the table. The number of people surviving on Ontario Works and on Ontario Disability Support in our wealthy region has grown by 35% in the past five years, and surviving is getting tougher, as discretionary benefits have been cut and transportation subsidies have shrunk.
* I will work to promote the development of an expanded and supported network of community gardens to help people living in poverty to access the fresh fruits and vegetables that they and their families need.
* I will push provincial government and work with Regional Council to preserve and, where possible, restore discretionary benefits.
* I will work to improve access to public transit for people living in low income, through such means as increased transportation subsidies and off-hours and transferable passes.
* I will work to improve transit service, including weekend and holiday service, to facilitate people’s ability to find and maintain work and to participate fully in the community.
My commitments to economic development
I believe that poverty relief and reduction and economic development must go hand in hand. When more than one person in ten in Waterloo Region lives in poverty, it's bad for business. And when businesses are forced to lay off employees, and even to close, it's bad for poor people. A strong business sector creates high paying jobs for those who can work, and a healthy tax base to better assist those who cannot.
Our economic base remains quite diverse. But some sectors are doing better than others, and some experts worry that our focus on the tech sector may mean that others will be neglected. We'll struggle to attract new businesses until the rail service between Waterloo and the GTA is significantly improved, until 20,000 orphan patients find family physicians, and until our arts and culture and recreation sectors can sustain themselves and thrive. Arguably, the main challenge we face is our lack of a regional approach. The cities and townships that make up our region pursue their own economic agenda, sometimes in competition with each other.
* I will work with the provincial level of government and with Council to expand and improve inter-regional public transit, including to the GTA and Guelph.
* I will push to have Regional Council support Creative Enterprise Initiative’s efforts to build capacity and sustainability in the local arts sector.
* I will champion the Regional Economic Development Strategy, which coordinates economic development activities to ensure that all our communities and citizens benefit.
My commitments to public transit
Transit serves several ends critical to a diverse and growing Waterloo Region. It is a means of transportation that enables people who don't or can't own or drive cars to work, shop and participate in our community. As an efficient alternative to private vehicles, public transit reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that contaminate our environment. Transit drives urban intensification and reduces sprawl, protecting agricultural areas and natural habitats. And transit promotes economic development, making our community a more attractive location for businesses and employees.
* I will promote and advance the Regional Transportation Master Plan in order to limit sprawl, manage traffic congestion, preserve the Region’s environmental resources, increase the walkability of communities, and delay the need for construction and maintenance of new roads.
* I will promote and advance transit oriented development which focuses new development around transit hubs and along transit corridors, increases mixed use zoning which combines residential and commercial and other land uses, and reduces parking requirements for residential developments.
My commitments to sustainability
Waterloo Region is one of the fastest growing communities in Ontario, and the present and future demands on our infrastructure are increasing. As we plan to meet those demands, we need to focus on sustainability. A sustainable community is one in which economic, social and environmental development and other activities meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy provides guiding principles for sustainable development, and I believe that Regional Council must embrace and follow those principles.
* I will promote and support local agriculture and business products and services.
* I will encourage advanced transport, communications and production systems which reduce energy use.
* I will insist upon true-cost pricing economics.
* I will establish as a priority the protection, preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
My commitments to inclusivity
The reasons that citizens feel disengaged from government are varied and complex. For many people, the main impediments to their political engagement are their lack of trust of politicians and government, and their sense that they have nothing to offer or that the contributions that they can make will not be valued. I want Regional government to be one that sees diversity, including diversity of opinion, as an opportunity, and builds on it as a strength. A truly open and inclusive government engages in real conversations and collaboration, and this requires outreach, listening, communicating, trusting and empowering. Regional Council should be prepared to do its business differently in order to overcome the broad range of social and cultural issues leading to distrust and exclusion.
* I will reach out to unengaged communities to better understand how to help them to feel welcome and able to participate.
* I will push Council to form an engagement committee, comprised of members from the diversity communities that make up our region, and to work closely with the committee to develop an engagement strategy with measurable targets and deadlines.
My commitments to using taxes wisely
Like the majority of people who live in Kitchener, I believe that the infrastructure and services that make our region a healthy, safe and sustainable place to live are worth paying for. However, like most people, I don't have infinite capacity to pay, and so I'm determined that my tax dollars be spent carefully and to maximum effect. The Region of Waterloo spent $1.3 billion, 32% coming from our property taxes, in 2014, and provided 60% of the municipal services we received, including, starting from the most expensive, policing, public transit, road repairs and construction, social services, waste management, and others.
* I will work to limit property tax increases to the rate of inflation.
* I will push Council to be more strategic in how it allocates its funds, investing in proactive and preventative programs in order to reduce the need for more expensive intervention and emergency services, utilizing where applicable a social return on investment analysis.