2022 Ontario municipal election: Meet the Kitchener Ward 1 council candidates

The front entrance of Kitchener City Hall. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

On Oct. 24, voters across Waterloo Region will head to the polls to elect city and regional councillors, mayors and a regional chair.

Residents of Kitchener, the region’s largest city, will elect councillors in 10 wards as well as a mayor to form city council.

Read more: Meet the candidates for Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo council

There will be at least three new faces in place, as Ward 3 Coun. John Gazzola, Ward 5 Coun. Kelly Galloway Sealock and Ward 10 Coun. Sarah Marsh have chosen not to seek re-election.

In Ward 1, Coun. Scott Davey is seeking a fourth term in council but he is facing off against three others for the job.

To help voters ahead of this election, Global News has reached out to all of those running for regional or city council, mayor or regional chair in Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo with available online contact info. Those running for office were emailed a list of seven questions and in the coming days, the responses for every candidate who replies will be shared.

What follows are the responses received from those running for councillor in Kitchener, with the candidates being listed in alphabetical order. (This page will be updated if more candidates choose to respond.):

Alan Becirevic

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I was born and raised in Kitchener and have lived in Ward 1 for almost my entire life. I attended Mackenzie King public school, Stanley Park public school, and Grand River collegiate institute.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

As a millennial, I understand the issues that my generation and the generation after me are facing and trying to navigate through. I want to help people now, and help future generations have a good foundation for their future and not face uncertainties we are facing, struggles we are going through, and bring hope back to those who feel stuck or trapped.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city as a whole?

There is no one major issue facing the ward and city, as the issues we are dealing with are multipronged. Many families, especially single parent homes are facing affordability issues, be it groceries, gas, rent, clothes, and anything else that inflation has hit. Those in my generation or around it are struggling, and I want to help those in need get through this and beat these trying times.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city?

My long-term goal for the city is to get affordable housing, better infrastructure that stays maintained, and to keep the city’s budget within means to remain fiscally responsible.

Q.5 What is your platform?

My platform is to bring affordable housing to the city, by lowering developer fees and reducing red tape so projects don’t take months and months to get started.

A commitment to not raise property taxes and to budget within our means so we aren’t burdening folks with more taxes, especially during high inflation.

The city needs infrastructure work and to also keep our infrastructure maintained so it doesn’t digress and need full repairs all the time because of the lack of maintenance.

I also promise to not allow city council to take a salary increase, especially during our highest inflation in four decades

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy staying active by going to the gym, running or going for walks. Reading and watching sports are other enjoyments in my spare time.

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

We are the Silicon Valley of the north, the tech hub of Canada. We have world renowned schools in our city, beautiful greenery, close commute to many locations in Southern Ontario, and of course the people of the ward and city are amazingly nice and friendly!

Scott Davey

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

Hi Ward 1!  I have been honoured to serve as your Councillor for the past 12 years.  I was first elected when I was 35 and my prior career was in tech and finance.  I was born in Kitchener and have lived here my whole life except for while earning my degree and a short while after, where I met my wife in B.C. and somehow convinced her into marrying and moving back with me.  We have two children both of which we have raised right here in this ward.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

My focus has always been on the finances of building a better city. I firmly believe the role of government is not only to equitably-advance, but to do so sustainably and within our means. That means making tough decisions in determining what community investments have the best value… because we simply cannot afford to do everything.  I have overseen the past 11 budgets as Kitchener’s Finance Chair, a position I was voted into by my council colleagues. Since then, our deficits have become surpluses, and we have paid down 40 per cent of Kitchener’s debt. Meanwhile, we have enjoyed the lowest tax increases among the tri-cities and, despite challenges like COVID-19, we have not cut our services. In fact, we have been making enhancements with customer service improvements, investments in our parks and, connecting our trails and cycling grid. We have also made great strides to support sports groups, arts and culture, sustainable environmental initiatives, and significant investments in affordable housing.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city as a whole?

The cost of living due to inflation and housing is spiraling ever-upward.  While a municipal-level government cannot fix the inflation issue, we do play a role in whether we add to your burden or provide relief.  The other main issue is that of homelessness.  We have provided assistance well outside of our jurisdiction as shelters and social services are a regional and provincial responsibility, but it will take all levels to solve this problem.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city?

“Vote for Efficiency” is my slogan because, in the end, that is truly what we want from our government.  It may come in the form of a hundred different things (e.g. climate change action, service delivery, recreation etc.) the more efficiently we operate the core services of our city the more resources we have to move beyond core services to address needs and keep Kitchener clean and vibrant.

What is your platform?

Leading from my long-term goals above, my platform is to continue to build efficiency within Kitchener.  We have already built a culture of efficiency with city staff.   e.g. Waterloo and Cambridge property tax increases have been 35 per cent & 71 per cent higher (respectively) over the last 11 years, but now it’s time to begin aggressively leveraging technology to continue to increase productivity per worker.  In practical terms that means exploring and implementing technologies like wireless meter-reading (being piloted soon), autonomous grass-cutting machines (piloted this past summer) and providing more services online like permits and payments.  I want Kitchener’s efficiency to be the envy of all.  This will free up funding for more park amenities, a better trail system, maintenance of our ageing infrastructure and increase our focus on combating climate change.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

– I’m a tech enthusiast so I follow computing advancements quite closely (CPU/GPU process tech, VR etc.)
– volunteer coach of various sports for many (mostly hockey.)
– enjoy playing many sports incl. ice/ball hockey and golf.

What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

We have the best of both worlds in Kitchener.  We have all the convenience of a big city in terms of shopping, recreation and culture but also all the safety and comfort of a small town.

Simon Guthrie

Q.1 Please give a brief background of yourself including what you do for a living and how long you have lived in the area? (If you are an incumbent, please state how long you have held the position.)

I grew up in Ottawa and came to Waterloo Region in 1993 to attend the University of Waterloo. I have completed degrees in both Physics and Peace & Conflict Studies. In the former, I studied applications of lasers to cancer detection and in the latter, I considered how faith communities in Waterloo Region have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. This informs my interest in supporting all types of communities as they emerge from pandemic realities.

I moved to Ward 1 in 2006 while working for local technology companies as a product developer. I currently work in Public Health, providing administrative and logistical support for vaccination programs. I’m a committed volunteer to organizations such as the Community Kitchen Cooperative KW, Food Not Bombs, Project Ploughshares, and the Consumption and Treatment Services located in Kitchener.

Q.2 Why do you believe you are the right person for the job?

I bring technological and human leadership together in a unique way, with academic and practical experience in STEM and social science. I have experience in many of the communities that make up Kitchener and Ward 1: faith communities; academic communities; non-profit communities; and commercial communities. Combined with compassion, integrity, and commitment, I will be a strong member of Kitchener City Council.

I see Kitchener as a “network of communities” as a way of identifying actions that can be taken to connect and strengthen those communities. My experience in so many different local communities gives me excellent perspective on how they can work together.

I’ve been engaged in Canadian politics and political processes for a very long time. One of my early memories is of the 1984 convention to replace Pierre Trudeau as leader of the federal Liberal party. My interest has only grown since then. A large factor in my interest in municipal politics is that there are no parties and a greater potential for councillors to reflect and support the people that voted for them. Decisions of municipal governments have an immediate impact on the people and communities we represent.

Q.3 What do you think is the most important issue facing your ward and the city as a whole?

The most important issue has to be housing. We see it in the media, during council meetings and I’m hearing it at doors as I meet my neighbours in Ward 1. In fact, there are multiple housing issues.

Firstly, homelessness is a deficit of housing supply, but also of mental healthcare… of substance abuse treatment… of poverty support… of marginalization. The encampments at Victoria and Weber and Roos Island have made homelessness impossible to ignore any longer. It’s going to take all levels of government, along with the private and nonprofit sectors working together, to make progress. The City of Kitchener can contribute through zoning and bylaw amendments, through financial investment, and by building relationships with partners such as Indwell and Mennohomes.

Secondly, there is housing affordability. With prices reaching $1,000,000 for an average home earlier this year, ownership is beyond many in our community and rent is also increasing beyond what many can afford. We need to ensure we are building sufficient housing, but also that it is appropriate housing so that all who want to live in Kitchener can find somewhere safe and reliable to live. Transit corridors, particularly Victoria Street east of King Street, should be targeted for high- and medium-density housing development. Northfield Drive in Waterloo (between King and Bridge streets) provides some great examples of this type of housing.

Overall, Kitchener City Council needs to adopt housing as one of its two top priorities in the next term. The other priority is adapting to (and preventing the worst of) climate change. These two priorities are deeply intertwined.

Q.4 Looking down the road, what are your long-term goals for the city?

Speaking just of housing, I would like to see Kitchener “over-contribute” to housing development in Waterloo Region to help preserve our rural areas, acknowledging that our proximity to the Grand River and the countryside is a large part of what makes Kitchener such a great place to live, work and grow as a community.

In the coming years, Kitchener needs to orient itself to mitigate the impact of climate change, reconsidering our reliance on personal vehicles and fossil fuels. Our focus on active and public transportation is in support of this.

In the future, I would like Kitchener City Council to be seen as inclusive and representative of the people that live here. Better engagement between Council and residents, along with regular reviews of our representation will keep local democracy energized.

We have much to do with respect to Reconciliation between settlers and Indigenous Peoples. Our location on the Haldimand Tract makes it incumbent on us to understand our history, including those aspects that we might prefer belonged to someone else. In ten years, I would like to look back on a decade of steady progress toward Reconciliation.

Despite the changes that all of these aspirations will entail, I hope that Kitchener remains a very desirable place to live and work, and that we are seen as an excellent example of how to grow fast without leaving anyone behind.

Q.5 What is your platform?

In addition to what I’ve already said about the housing crisis, I will work to support our community groups and nonprofits as they recover from the pandemic. Fundraising and volunteer service have presented challenges, along with a long-term reduction in public participation. I will use my platform on the council to amplify their needs and support their efforts.

In responding to the climate emergency, we can take lessons from other cities such as Vancouver that have analyzed impacts and taken bold action. Kitchener needs to take bold action, that can focus on zoning and building codes to move us toward a sustainable future.

Finally, there is considerable opportunity for democratic renewal in the City of Kitchener. Increased engagement, led directly by councillors and also formalized in processes such as citizen assemblies, will benefit us all. I believe there is a need to review the structure of the City Council itself, to ensure responsive representation from councillors and to improve the inclusion of new voices on the Council.

Q.6 What do you like to do in your spare time?

I read a lot – at the moment it seems to be mostly history, economics, and science fiction. I listen to podcasts from Mike Duncan, Cory Doctorow, and Paris Marx. I run and bike and I’ve been competing in triathlons and marathons for almost as long as I’ve lived in Ward 1. Quiet neighbourhoods and community trails make it feel like I’ve left the world behind on a run. I volunteer my time to the organisations that I’ve already mentioned, and I’ve been donating blood since I was a teenager – 92 times so far!

Q.7 What is your favourite thing about living in your city/ward?

We moved to the ward because of the closeness of everything! Within about a kilometre of our front door are multiple elementary schools, a high school, grocery stores, restaurants, a swimming pool, baseball diamonds, a library, an arena, and many parks. The community that develops when I meet my neighbours in all of these places is irreplaceable. Having all of this within walking distance is a model that we should aspire to in all parts of the city, particularly as we develop in response to growth expectations.

Global News has also reached out to Prashant Deol but has not received a response as of publication. This copy will be updated as further answers arrive.

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