With the municipal election just around the corner on Oct. 24, a coalition of social service organizations has asked city and regional candidates to share their views about the future of social services.
Organizations including the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries, the Cambridge Food Bank, Cambridge Shelter, and YWCA Cambridge asked candidates to complete a survey asking questions relevant to the communities they serve.
From mental health, addictions, housing affordability, homelessness, social isolation, gender, racism, discrimination, and other social and health issues, Cameron Dearlove, executive director at the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries, said that voters want to know where candidates stand on these essential issues.
“The pandemic has had such a big impact on people’s lives and more people are requiring different levels of support because of that. But there are so many challenges that are driving the need for social support whether it’s housing or food insecurity, employment challenges, gender-based violence, or mental health," Dearlove said.
“And for our organizations, most of us are continuing with limited resources, and we are having challenges in meeting the needs in the community. At the same time, the community really needs to have these very important discussions about how it is that we go about supporting these organizations and the different kinds of programs and services that we deliver.”
This is the second time that this group of organizations has come together to ask candidates for their input.
“During the provincial election, the same network of organizations came together, and we held an all candidates meeting regarding the future of social services in Cambridge and North Dumfries,” Dearlove said.
“We had really rich discussions with the candidates about these issues. The reason why we all wanted to do this is because social supports, the ways in which they are delivered, and accessibility of our supports in the community, are more and more important.”
Dearlove said the survey can help residents make a decision about who they’re going to support with their votes.
“And to put this out there to candidates, as they respond to the issues asked of them, they can gauge what is important to constituents and to voters,’ Dearlove said.
“None of the issues that we tackle, such as housing insecurity, mental health, or food insecurity are specifically municipal issues or provincial issues. They cross all boundaries and require a full community response.”
Dearlove said that it was important to put the survey out into the community, because all of the areas highlighted in the survey, are interrelated.
“Our organizations are all dependant one another,” he said.
Dianne McLeod, executive director at the Cambridge Food Bank, said that it is important to know where candidates stand when it comes to social services in the community.
“We are all interconnected. We live in a very caring community and when elections happen, voters want to know where their elected officials stand on lots of issues,” McLeod said.
“And social issues are one of them. I think voters want to know the representatives that they elect will help care for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Of the 42 candidates, 22 responded to the survey link by the deadline. Survey results are posted on the Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries website here.
Dearlove said he hopes the answers provided will help the community make an informed decision on Oct. 24.
“By doing a survey like this, we are hoping that we can put some of these issues squarely on the agenda of candidates, at all different levels,” Dearlove said.
“If people want to make sure that these supports are available, if they, or their family, friends or neighbours might need them, then we need to make sure that we are having conversations about them."
For information about where and how to vote, visit the City of Cambridge website here.