Occupation: Mayor of Cambridge, councillor, Region of Waterloo
(Former MPP for Cambridge, Ontario Cabinet Minister, Registered Nurse – critical care, home care)
Why are you running in this election?
I am running for re-election because I believe in and know of the potential our incredible city has.
I’m confident in the strides we’ve made and the plans we’ve set over the last four years. I’m committed to our community and seeing those plans through.
This is a critical time, when experience and committed leadership is needed to steer Cambridge out of the pandemic toward full recovery at every level. That requires an experienced hand; not one that seeks a fight, but rather a strong voice that seeks collaborative solutions that benefit absolutely everyone in our community.
Our resilience has been challenged! I bring stamina and the strong working relationships needed to move our city forward. As seasoned public servant, with experience at three out of the four levels of government I will always stand for up Cambridge, even when it means making the difficult, but right decisions.
I am running to ensure we remain one of the best places in Canada to play, live and work.
What qualifies you to be the Mayor of Cambridge?
A vote for me is for a leader who prioritizes evidence-based decisions. Overall, I’ve been serving this community for decades, whether as an elected official or as a critical care nurse. I have raised my family here, worked and volunteered here, and ultimately, I’ve shown up every single day striving to make this community a place where everyone can thrive.
I bring a collaborative can do attitude, with prior experience as an MPP, serving as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, and Minister of Transportation. That led me to my first term as Mayor of Cambridge, where I worked through an incredibly personally and professionally challenging term. I also strengthened our relationship with the Region to ensure Cambridge gets its fair share.
As my first career was a critical care nurse, I bring a caring and compassionate lens. This instills the importance of advocacy, enabling me to give a voice to those who have none and to adapt to the changing needs of our population.
I believe I bring a unique perspective on how we can move Cambridge toward a sustainable, collectively healthy, and prosperous future, not just today but for countless tomorrows. I will always prioritize citizen needs, by getting input from the community, council, staff, and experts.
Why should people vote for you?
Voting is an important expression of interest in our collective future and I hope Cambridge votes for a future where everyone can thrive.
Voting for me is a vote for a proven leader who shows up, who builds strong relationships founded on trust and accountability, and who will always vote for the greater good of the community. I am someone who guides us to opportunities that pay dividends, as proven with our Grandbridge Energy merger. I am a vocal advocate Provincially and Nationally through Ontario’s Big City Mayors, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, taking Cambridge’s priorities to Toronto and Ottawa and working across party lines and all levels of government for solutions to our biggest challenges.
A vote for me is for a leader who prioritizes evidence-based decisions and someone who is working toward Cambridge's strategic plan. I will always prioritize citizen needs, by getting input from the community, staff, council colleagues and experts.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Cambridge?
Lack of social services support is the single biggest issue faced by the residents of Cambridge.
We are touched by this at every socio-economic level and it has a ripple effect into every part of our community. People experiencing mental health, addiction and homelessness challenges need our immediate attention and action.
Taking care of each other means we all thrive and benefit from a supported and safe community. It means we have a healthy workforce, vibrant downtown cores, supported small businesses, intervention tools, supportive housing options, harm reduction tools and wraparound care. It’s not one or the other. All these things stem from social services support. Many of us struggle with our mental health or are one paycheck away from having to access these services.
Additionally, building more supports focused on children and youth that will contribute to increased resilience is critical. We know this, as the most recent Children and Youth Planning Table report shows our youth need support. Providing accessible programs especially for at-risk youth is the key to their success.
What do you see as the main issues facing the residents of Cambridge on a broader scale?
Inflation and its impacts on the affordability of life; such as food, housing, transportation and self-care. This affects our quality of life, stress levels and physical and mental well-being.
We must acknowledge and support our residents via community-based programs designed to reduce individual costs and build resilience in our population. By supporting local businesses and farmers’ markets, we can help mitigate the growing cost of food and goods. Shopping local helps Cambridge’s economy and supports our neighbours.
It is incumbent upon the Cambridge leadership to call upon the Provincial and Federal governments to bolster and adequately fund social service supports and community focused programs and housing.
What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Cambridge?
To tackle the diverse issues facing Cambridge, such as community safety and homelessness, we need to change the dynamic of political discourse from one of fighting to have win-lose outcomes to one of collaborative engagement focused on win-win outcomes that support the best interests of Cambridge, rather than personal political gain.
As a foundational element of good governance, we need to focus on the issues which advance Cambridge in terms of overall quality of life, well-being, and prosperity and move away from personal attacks that undermine individual trust or credibility. This helps no one.
We need to strengthen relationships, have clear open processes which lead to better outcomes, elect more diverse candidates, diffuse conflicts, and consider new and diverse ideas in a respectful collaborative environment, both in person and online. Every person deserves to be treated respectfully.
What services need to be improved in Cambridge?
On an ongoing basis, Cambridge needs to review, re-imagine, refresh and adequately resource its recreational services. We need to match the growing needs of our community in a sustainable way, by strengthening advisory committees that focus on wellbeing and by offering accessible and age-friendly amenities for culture and sports. This in turn empowers our community voices, encourages community building and attracts families to Cambridge. We need to focus on services that residents want and ensure that there are adequate staff resources to do so.
By applying collaborative approaches the Mayors of Cambridge, Brantford and North Dumfries enabled Energy Plus to merge with Branford power forming the new Grandbridge energy. This an example of a needed change achieved by a win-win business approach, which resulted in stabilized electricity rates for 10 years and an increasing dividend which will assist in funding City services.
Is Cambridge growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough?
Cambridge is already one of Canada’s fastest growing communities; responding to increasing demand for employment lands, housing and services. We are at the crossroads of the Golden Horseshoe located near a major airport and international border. We have an affordable and attractive City that is historic, diverse, and welcoming. We offer widely sought-after industrial sites. We have world class universities and Conestoga College which is opening the largest Skilled Trades campus in Canada. By becoming a higher-learning hub, we are attracting thousands of international students.
To achieve just the right amount of growth, our challenge is to manage growth while avoiding change that fails to meet our standards for community well being, not by turning away investment.
I believe Cambridge is poised to have explosive job growth as the industrial lands open up. This means inevitable growth in our employment and housing sectors, which also pays taxes. However, by applying new ‘smart-growth’ strategies, we will shift Cambridge’s growth to livable LRT-based 15-minute communities that are walkable, age-friendly and accessible. We will embrace and preserve our heritage and provide an active lifestyle for the benefit of our residents.
What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing?
There are a number of strategies that can be applied to increase the supply of housing to help meet the demand and thereby reduce the cost of housing.
We will continue to work with the Region and the Province to build more tiny homes such as those designed by the School of Architecture and more affordable accommodation such as the 195 Hespeler Road project, where all 4 levels of government including Cambridge, contributed to achieve 55 affordable units including 20 supported units. We will work with Indwell, Habitat for Humanity and other agencies to bring more housing units to Cambridge.
We can encourage developers to provide a range of housing options such as gentle density in established residential areas, mixed use and missing middle developments and higher density near LRT stations. We need to invest further in our municipal staff so that Council and staff can work towards quicker and more efficient processing of development applications and fewer Ontario Land Tribunal appeals. We can encourage more efficient land use and provide more community education associated with planning, development, and application processes.
Ultimately more housing units are required to meet the growing demand across a diverse population.
What can be done locally about the homelessness issue?
Homelessness represents a serious multi-faceted issue with numerous root causes. We have mental health and addictions crises layered on pandemic, housing supply and affordability crises. We’re already moving on these and there’s more to be done. However, municipalities are not equipped with revenues to tackle these issues on their own. It’s going to require all hands-on deck and multiple solutions.
Solutions require engagement of all levels of government, properly funded social services and supports, and housing options to ensure once people obtain housing they remain housed. It means meeting vulnerable people where they are with proper supports.
Along with all of the Ontario Big City Mayors representing over 70% of Ontario’s population, I have called on the provincial government for an emergency meeting to address this and demand adequate funding. Ontario is the only Canadian Province to fund social service supports through property tax.
The region, in collaboration with cities and community advocates, recently released a new plan to address homelessness. The City of Cambridge has partnered on a pilot tiny home project. Under my administration, we have been and will be a willing partner in many forms of affordable and attainable housing projects going forward.
How do we make Cambridge an even better city to live in?
This is an exciting time for Cambridge, rated as one of the most beautiful Canadian cities! Nestled along the banks of the Rivers, with nature cycling/hiking trails, Cambridge is ideally located for an expected explosion in economic growth (film-making, tourism, auto, manufacturing, IT)
We have one of the hottest Canadian economies and enjoy vibrant arts, culture and sports. The joy of dancing in the streets, concerts in the Park and free activities for our kids are examples of place-making.
Many opportunities exist to create a joyful, exciting and vibrant place for everyone, while planning for future growth near the planned LRT and undertaking core area revitalization. It takes vision and smart planning for 15 minute walkable communities and to preserve our built heritage while adding more housing options and jobs. We should enhance public parks, green spaces and prioritize place-making. Working collaboratively together, we can address complex societal issues we are experiencing and improve community safety. A connected community is a safer community.
We can appreciate our diverse community, bridge cultural gaps by gathering together in shared spaces, reconcile the past and embrace the future for our families.
This is my vision. Are you with me?
Let’s go, Cambridge! The future awaits.
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