Occupation: I am a university teacher, a researcher, and a communications manager. After receiving my Masters degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Oxford (UK), my PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) (UK), and then receiving Canada’s top award – the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship – I researched and taught International Environmental Security at Wilfrid Laurier University and the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA).
Although I enjoyed teaching, researching, and publishing peer-reviewed articles on (global) politics, I wanted to make an impact more directly on the world, and to help others in my local community. I felt that shaping policy and being a positive political voice was the best way for me, personally, to do this. I became a city councillor in Cambridge in 2020 in the Ward 7 by-election, and I love being able to help my city and the residents of Ward 7.
Recently, I have also accepted a role in communications, working with governments, NGOs, and the public, to help organizations achieve their strategic goals.
How long have you lived in Cambridge?
Six amazing years!! I’ve lived around the world and experienced many different places and cultures, but Cambridge truly feels like ‘home.’
I grew up in Tottenham, a small farming town of 5,000 people, where the primary industries were farming, agriculture, or auto assembly at the Honda Manufacturing plant in Alliston.
As I grew older, my wife and I met, and we lived in Ottawa, Montreal, and then in the UK for almost six years (Oxford, and then the very center of London, UK, in Shoreditch and Hackney). But, we wanted to start a family back home in Canada, which we realized through our travels is truly the best country in the world.
Upon returning home, we discovered Cambridge in 2016 after looking at many cities, and we instantly fell in love with it. Now, sensing our passion for Cambridge, all of our family (my wife’s side and my side) has moved here too to be with us, and to share in the awesomeness that is our city!
Do you reside in the ward/city you are running in?
Like the previous Councillor for Ward 7, Frank Monteiro (may he rest in peace), I live outside of the ward. But, for me, it’s not where we fall asleep at night, but where our heart and our head’s are at during the day.
For me, this is Ward 7. I’ve knocked on nearly every door in Ward 7 multiple times over the past 18 months since I was elected (and if I haven’t knocked on yours yet, it is still on my list, and I look forward to chatting with you soon about your issues and concerns!).
Ward 7, to me, represents Cambridge in a nutshell: it has natural parks and beauty like Shades Mills, heritage buildings and green spaces, yet it is growing rapidly with homes, schools, the Recreation Complex, etc., and new Cambridge residents (and many new Canadians!) arriving from the GTA and around the world. It’s an amazing mix of old and new in every regard, and I am honoured to be a part of Ward 7 and to assist its residents in any way that I can.
Why are you running in this election?
I have a young family and I want to help make the city great for their present and their future. With my background in research, critical thinking, and political science, I also have the energy and background knowledge to help craft and shape the policies and initiatives that direct our city in important and essential ways. I was recently elected to city council in a by-election in October, 2020.
In less than 18 months, I’ve never missed a city council meeting (even when I had to use vacation days from my full-time job to attend meetings), and I’ve researched and personally-written eight council motions that have been debated by council and passed – all of these motions evolving from conversations with Cambridge residents.
For me, it’s by listening to many voices and concerns of Ward 7 and Cambridge, and crafting them into policy, that is what I can excel at, and what I wish to
continue doing for the good of all. I feel like I’m just getting started, and there’s more work to be done! And, to be blunt, I just love this city and helping people. It’s as simple as that, I guess!
What qualifies you to represent your ward?
First, I listen to every opinion, and even if I agree or (respectfully!) disagree, I digest and think about everything that’s suggested to me. If you take the time to reach out, I will always listen to you and ‘hear you out.’ I then research whether action should, or even can be taken (as many concerns I hear are for other
jurisdictions, and the city has little to no control) – and then I take real and substantive action to make changes in policy and behavior.
I speak with residents, I approach staff, I speak with front-line workers and local agencies that possess expertise in issues of concern brought to me be residents, and then I work across party-lines and levels of government to change the city. I never make any decisions based on emotion or fear; I think critically, research best-practices, and ensure that my actions are what’s best for the city and its future, not merely ‘for the heat
of the moment.’
I listen, I care, I think about everything that’s brought to me, and I take real action to get things done that are in the best interest of Ward 7 residents and the entire city of Cambridge.
Why should people vote for you?
I have the best interests of my ward, and the overall interests of the future of the city, on my mind at all times. I’ve tried to stay active and engaged with Ward 7 by delivering ‘neighbourhood updates’ to residents and hearing concerns (all while being careful, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent lockdowns!). I have two young children, I’m a Raptors and Leafs fan, and although I have an education in political science that helps me with researching and writing policy, and engaging complex issues (i.e. a Masters, PhD, post-doc, etc.), I’m honestly just a down-to-earth guy that wants a nice city for his family’s future.
So, I do ‘get it’ when someone has an issue or problem with the streets or the city, and I empathize. I’m honest with people, and I help where I can; sometimes I can’t, but I will be honest, and always connect you with someone that might be able to assist. Whether you’re 5, 15, 35, or 80 years old, I will listen to you, empathize with your situation, and respect you and your concerns – and I’ll do whatever I can to make your voice heard and to help you.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward?
Each neighbourhood – and each family, and individual – has differing concerns. In the north of Ward 7, I hear issues about Avenue Road noise and car-racing, as well as concerns over Franklin Road noise and condo amalgamation problems; other areas of Ward 7 have concerns over industrial noise from facilities, and about the impact that potential new developments might have on older and established neighbourhoods and their green spaces.
In the South of Ward 7, the safety of students attending schools on Myers Road and the dangerous parking situation that parents and students are confronting, is a huge problem (despite some progress we’ve made over the past year, there’s more work to be done!). I hear a great deal about the dangerous intersection at
Branchton Road and Highway 8, speeding and noise from Franklin Boulevard., and noise from the new McQueen-Shaver Boulevard.
As Ward 7 grows and intensifies, a variety of traffic, schooling, environmental, and safety concerns, are affecting the ward generally.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Cambridge on a broader scale?
Homelessness, drug addiction, mental health, and a lack of affordable housing, are inter-related crises that need immediate attention from all levels of government.
As a Dad myself, I hate looking for sharps in playgrounds, or worrying about my kids and family if we go into a city core to shop and play. As a new councillor, I have spent the past 1.5 years learning how to engage other levels of government strategically, to facilitate the attention, and the funding, badly-needed to help these city-wide issues going forth. I’ve also initiated creative changes at a municipal level (e.g. my motion looking at ‘Tiny Homes’ for Cambridge, my ‘placemaking’ motion, etc.) to bring housing, security, and play, to our city.
Also, climate change is a huge concern, and as a city we need greener infrastructure, energy-efficient buildings and retrofits, and electric modes of public and private transportation. Finally, as our senior and older-adult population booms, we need more mechanisms in place to help our older residents
live a great and healthy life!
What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Cambridge?
There are two things: one is physical, or on our streets; the other is mental, or subjective, in terms of how we ‘feel’.
First, I want to see Cambridge work more with the regional, provincial, and federal governments, to tackle the crises of homelessness, drug addiction, mental health, and housing, that’s gripping Waterloo Region. We need more collaborative inter-governmental engagement and action. This MUST translate to an improvement in our city, and especially in our cores: helping those in need off the streets, cleaning up needle debris, and creating downtown core environments that are conducive to business, tourism, and community play.
Secondly, I want to change the mentality of our city to a positive and energized one. Despite our difficulties, this is an amazing place to live, and it has such incredible potential. It’s up us as citizens and members of council, to provide a forward-thinking, creative, and prosperous future for present and future generations of Cambridge residents to flourish in. I want to set an example of positivity and engagement, resolving our issues through collaboration and creative thinking, rather than anger, emotionality, or fear. Fear only tears-down, it can never build anything up. Cambridge, we are all in this together!
What services need to be improved in Cambridge?
Affordable housing (although it’s the purview of the Region and Province, primarily), public transportation (although it is regional, we need to collaborate on the LRT and its extension into Cambridge), snow-plowing and snow clearing, pools and recreational activities for children, as well as hang-outs and safe spaces for adolescents and teens. With a growing population of seniors and older adults, we also need more activities, clubs, and programs that assist older adults in the community, as well as children and teens.
Is Cambridge growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough?
The only way to answer this question is to look at the provincial, national, and global situation within which we find ourselves. Canada is blessed to be a nation that is – relative to the majority of the world – safe, secure, and stable. With an aging population and turmoil throughout the world, we are experiencing waves of immigration and (global) economic changes that facilitate the growth of new areas, such as tech and some forms of manufacturing, as well as the changing and
expansion of other key economic industries for Cambridge, such as the automotive sector.
Waterloo Region, an emerging global tech hot-spot, is experiencing unprecedented growth, and will be approaching one million people in future decades. So, with this anticipated growth, I would say that Cambridge is growing ‘just the right amount’ to capitalize on provincial, national, and global population and economic trends, without sacrificing its future, or building in ways it will later regret.
However, where I would say we are not growing quickly enough, is in the expansion of major roads and transportation arteries. We need more active transportation, but also an enlargement of major roads to handle the influx of people we will see.
What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing?
The difficulty of housing is that it is largely under regional and provincial jurisdiction. It’s tough for the city. However, we can, and must, think of creative local solutions to this crisis. In my first term of council, I passed a motion allowing Cambridge to pursue the allowance and construction of ‘tiny homes’ as one way to help get more roofs over people’s heads. Whether used as a tool to assist the homelessness crisis, to provide a space for seniors or relatives to live close to a family home, to provide lodging for students, or for a rental unit to supplementary income or a mortgage, ‘tiny homes’ offer one creative way to boost housing supply at a low-cost, in ways that are greener and use less materials than traditional, larger homes.
Although this won’t solve the housing crisis, when combined with lobbying other levels of government for financial and infrastructural support, and with other new and traditional types of housing, I am hopeful we can bring the availability of housing back up, thereby bringing the costs back down. If we increase market supply, we lower demand, the cost drops, and we’ll have more people in more homes for less money.
What can be done locally about the homelessness issue?
First, it is essential to work with – and sometimes, to lobby and engage – other levels of government that have more control, funding, and jurisdiction, over this issue. Nearly every single person in Cambridge I’ve met on streets and on doorsteps agrees that more education, treatment, children’s programs, teen after-school programs, wraparound services, housing supplies (low-income housing, ‘missing middle’ housing, etc.) would be a huge help.
The difficulty is, that these are highly dependent on significant funding from other levels of government, and they are under the jurisdiction and control of other levels of government. It is therefore essential for the City of Cambridge to think of creative solutions that are within its jurisdiction, are cost-feasible, and which it can control:
for instance, working with citizen-led groups to help bring non-profit organizations that build housing, like Indwell and Habitat for Humanity, to Cambridge. ‘Tiny homes’ will also help.
Providing more roofs over more heads will create hope and possibility for so many, instead of waiting in discouragement for the 5+ year waiting-list for Regional housing to be reduced.
How do we make Cambridge an even better city to live in?
We need a combination of two things: Joy and security. Security – be it economic, environmental, physical, or emotional – means that we have a bustling economy that ensures our needs are met; we have a clean, green environment that embraces parks and green spaces while fighting climate change through green infrastructure and electric transit; physical, in that we have no fear or insecurity walking our streets at night, and those currently living on our streets are assisted and helped in compassionate and caring ways to turn their lives around; and emotional security, in that we share a disposition that welcomes change, and embraces diversity, other cultures, languages, and religions, and embraces creative changes to our landscape.
Security leads to the other essential component of our city: to create more community joy in our streets, homes, and lives, by spending more time in our streets and shops, our parks, our paths, our community events and art installations, and by celebrating how great and unique our city truly is, in a communal, outgoing, and joyful fashion.
Cambridge, we’re all in this together, and we live in a truly amazing city. Its future isn’t written in stone; it’s what we will make of it together.
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