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Failed response to opioid crisis, lack of safety prompted former mayor to run for regional council

'The region projecting a 6.8 per cent increase in property taxes on top of inflation, gas prices and food prices is completely unacceptable,' says candidate for regional council Doug Craig
dougcraig
Doug Craig is running for one of two spots representing Cambridge on regional council.

Doug Craig

Occupation: Retired teacher

 

How long have you lived in Cambridge/Waterloo Region?

I have been a resident of Cambridge for 48 years.

Why are you running in this election?

I am running in this election because of my concern regarding the lack of safety that people feel in our neighbourhoods, on our streets and in our downtowns. There has been a breakdown by the regional government to adequately respond to the crisis we are now a witness to in the homeless and addict population. We have over 1,100 people who are homeless in the region and 400 who are living on our streets and in our parks. The proliferation of encampments is unacceptable and
needs to be stopped with the alternative being transitional housing.

Using the region’s own statistics, there are 2,000 addicts injecting drugs every day in the Region of Waterloo. Last year according to the Coroner’s office, 158 individuals died of drug overdoses. This is a very sobering admission of failure regarding the region’s drug strategy.

Finally, on another issue, the region is projecting a 6.8 per cent increase in property taxes which on top of inflation, gas prices and food prices is completely unacceptable and must be trimmed. Also, there is looming cuts to some regional programmes because of less funding from the province that will be announced in the spring. This will of course also put pressure on the regional budget directly affecting homeowners.

What qualifies you to represent the city at the regional Council?

I have served in an elected capacity in various civic roles for 35 years as a mayor, regional councillor, hydro commissioner and ward councillor. I have extensive operational knowledge of local governments and I have worked with various provincial and federal partners in securing funding and support for various programmes and projects over those 35 years in Cambridge and at the region. Examples of such funding include the overpass at the Delta which used to see 24 train delays a day, funding for Drayton theatre and the funding for the Lang’s Health Centre in Preston.

I have served on various regional and city committees and I have been involved by invitation with the Premier’s office in oversea trade relationships to expand Toyota’s commitment to Ontario and with the Regional Chair’s office in business trips to the United States and with various trade delegations to Europe.

During my terms as mayor and regional councillor, I served for 27 years as a regional councillor which has given me a complete overview of regional government and its relationships with cities in the region and the upper orders of government.

Why should people vote for you?

I would ask people to vote for me simply because I am able to recognize the needs of the community and get things done.

During the span of my service in the community, I readily responded to concerns from organizations and residents regarding a wide variety of issues. One of the acute needs was funding for non-profit groups who were constantly looking for funding for their organizations because of constant shortfalls. I supported them through the city budgeting process and also hosted fund raisers for up to 14 various groups over the years with such events as the Mayor’s Movie Night.

I worked tirelessly to support the Arts community in Cambridge by bringing in Drayton Theatre and initiating the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts and Christmas in Cambridge.

During my terms, I participated in numerous functions, festivals and parades put on by members of our ethnic communities in order to demonstrate my strong beliefs in diversity and inclusivity in our community.

The new city hall, the renewal of the Hespeler and Preston Libraries and the School of Architecture, the pedestrian bridge were all a partial list of my commitment to a more liveable and vibrant community. Along with these milestones was the pledge I made to heritage in renovating the interior of the old City Hall to extensive work on the Fire Museum to the complete renovation and reuse of the Old Post Office.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Cambridge/the Region of Waterloo on a broader scale?

There are a number of issues affecting residents today. The most immediate one is affordability. Inflation, gas and food prices are affecting all households. Added to this is the projected property tax increase at the region of 6.8 per cent and the looming cutbacks of provincial funding for programs in social services which will have a serious impact on the regional budget.

This will negatively affect residents who are finding it difficult to balance their home accounts right now.

Neighbourhood safety is a very important concern. The homeless question, addiction problems and mental health all are having an impact on our local communities, streets and downtowns. The encampments as an example is a conscious acceptance of decline in how we treat people and a visual admittance of housing failure. The death of 158 individuals from overdoses is a sad reflection on a failed drug strategy.

Although regional government has a role to play in confronting these crisis, it’s ability is limited by legislation and finances and the acknowledgement that the property tax cannot support such expenditures.

The way ahead to address these concerns needs three actions to be taken by the new regional council in the first 90 days.

(1) request an immediate, preliminary review of the budget so that councillors can begin the process of considering ways to trim the projected 6.8% increase and be
made aware of possible provincial cutbacks.

(2) ask for an overall, comprehensive review of the present homeless, addiction and mental health numbers with a view to understanding the costs of transitional housing, better programs for addicts and the surging numbers of mental health issues in the region.

(3) request Regional Council to host a series of meetings of all area MPPs and MPs in order to bring all levels of government together working on these serious problems continually over the next term.

Recognizing that the federal and provincial government receive 91% of all taxes collected in Canada, then they must now start taking ownership for these crisis with their financing and legislative powers.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed at the regional level to have a positive impact on Cambridge?

There is and always has been a voting imbalance at the Region of Waterloo. This has come about because Kitchener-Waterloo control half the votes at the council. The four rural townships which collectively have less than half the population of Cambridge have four votes at the table. The City of Cambridge only has three which puts it at a distinct disadvantage in relationship to the rest of the voting members. This needs to be reviewed.

Also, the election of regional councillors separate from the local council has not demonstrated a better awareness of the public’s view of who is in charge of what services. Across the majority of other regions, the double-direct system is in operation where regional councillors also sit on local councils improving both the communication between the two levels of government and improving the public’s awareness of responsibility for various services.

What services need to be improved at the Region?

Cambridge’s lack of rapid transit services need to be prioritized. This coming term needs to see visible progress by 2026 of GO train service into Cambridge, an actual commitment from the province for the start of the LRT into Cambridge and a rapid acceleration of the by-pass around Cambridge in order to remove truck traffic off Hespeler Road and out of our downtown areas.

Is Cambridge/the Region of Waterloo growing too fast/just the right amount, or not fast enough?

At this particular juncture the Region of Waterloo is noted as one of the fastest growing economies in Canada. With this of course comes the expanding job market and the wealth of new businesses. However, there are negatives such as the cost of homes that affects everyone including a new generation of home buyers in particular and people who wish to rent. Also, the increase of traffic is starting to present gridlocks. It is growing at a pace that is just the right amount with associated benefits of this growth, but with increasing demands on social services.

What can be done about the rising cost of housing?

The rising cost of housing is determined by many factors outside the responsibility of local municipal councils. Inflation,, the pricing of building supplies, easy money and low mortgage rates all have an affect on the final price of home ownership.

Cities can speed up development applications and insure that there is a proper balance of affordable housing, secondary units and multi-unit proposals which will help in many cases.

How do we make the Region of Waterloo/Cambridge an even better place to live in?

We need to recognize that with growth comes important issues to address. Stress on our city roads because of increased traffic, homelessness and addiction problems and rising housing costs need new approaches. Those approaches require all levels of government working together in order to solve the problems we now face across the regional community. Public announcements of hand outs from the upper orders of governments do not suffice in dealing with our major problems. In other words, we need to return to “Good Government” where everyone at all government levels is continually participating in the building of a stronger and more vibrant region over the course of the next four years.

To learn more about Doug, visit the following links:

Links: facebook.com/douggcraig
Campaign phone: 519.222.9451
Email: infor@dougcraig.ca