Q: Will you put Affordable Housing and Homelessness FIRST on Council’s agenda?
The 0.7% vacancy rate for rental units needs to be addressed immediately, and part of the solution is to increase density. Higher density buildings can potentially offer lower rents since the fixed costs – one of the big ones being land acquisition – can be spread across more units. In Williamsville specifically, higher density residential along the Princess Street corridor will alleviate pressure on the existing housing stock in the established neighbourhoods and can help prevent more single-family homes and smaller apartment buildings from being turned into student rentals. Social housing is another concern, with a years-long waiting list for units. We have a vast amount of vacant Government owned land in Kingston – land that untaxed, yet taxpayer money is spent on upkeep. The potential to acquire some of that land for the construction of additional social housing units should be explored, since acquiring land inexpensively allows us to construct more units.
Q: Should Innovation and Job Creation be City Council’s top priorities?
These aren’t really stand-alone issues, they tie into almost everything. The decisions we make every day have an impact on job creation and innovation, these two factors must be considered in every decision we make as Councillors. Creating a business-friendly environment, by keeping taxes as low as possible, reducing red tape and duplication, improving bureaucratic efficiency, and supporting policy that makes it easy for businesses to set up and operate will lead to innovation, growth, and job creation. The Kingston Economic Development Corporation can seek out new investment, but it’s up to Council to foster an environment where business can thrive. We need to pay particular attention to supporting our small businesses, who contribute greatly to our economy and provide the bulk of the private sector jobs. When our small businesses do well, we all do well.
Q: Are you in favour of using Ranked Ballot Voting to elect the mayor and councilors?
I am, and I would encourage everyone to vote YES on our referendum question. I believe in the principles of democracy and fair elections, and 25% of the population being able to award 100% of power to Government just isn’t fair. Ranked ballots also encourage electors to vote for the person they feel best represents them, since it eliminates the possibility of a “vote split” or the perceived need to vote strategically. Something else to consider, ranked balloting is already used by every major political party to elect their leader and in some cases to select candidates.
Q: Are you in favour of high-rises above the “human scale” of 6-9 stories in the downtown core?
This is a tough one, since the answer really depends on the individual proposal. I’m supportive of high density development, but the design of the building needs to support a pedestrian-friendly streetscape and should incorporate a mix of residential and commercial uses. Taller buildings that are stepped back every few stories are less imposing visually than a tall building going straight up from the edge of the sidewalk, and the stepped back design helps reduce shadowing and the “wind tunnel” effect. I would also like to see a greater setback from the sidewalk, leaving additional room for green space, street furniture, bicycle parking, etc. The choice of exterior finishes should also complement the surrounding neighbourhood so that the new development does not look out of place.
Q: Should the City locally fund the Green ON home retrofit program recently cut by Ford?
Picking up the pieces of cancelled Provincial programs shouldn’t be a Municipal responsibility. Municipalities, including Kingston have already been burdened enough with the downloading of other services, we just can’t afford to take on anything else formerly provided by the Province.
Q: Should Kingston ask the province to adopt a Basic Income for all Ontarians?
I would ask the Provincial Government to reinstate the Basic Income pilot project that was recently cancelled so that we can then use the results to make a decision on how to move forward based on evidence. If properly implemented it could reduce cost, increase efficiency, reduce red tape, and improve the quality of life for Ontario families. From a fiscal perspective, not only can savings be realized within social services, but also in healthcare and the criminal justice system. We spend an extraordinary amount of money each year treating preventable health issues caused by food insecurity and poor living conditions, both of which are strongly linked to income. We’ve been having serious conversations about poverty in Canada for decades, and it’s time to try something new since what we’ve been doing isn’t working. The patchwork of different programs we have now is inefficient, expensive, and hard for those in need of assistance to navigate and get the help they need.
Q: Will you vote to implement the 2018 Active Transport Plan on foot, bike and bus transport in your district?
Yes. Not only will this benefit the residents of my district, many of whom do not own cars and commute to work or school by means of active transportation, it benefits the City as a whole by enabling more people to make sustainable choices. The benefits of a robust active transportation infrastructure even extend to those who only use it recreationally, so in addition to the environmental impact of making sustainable transportation choices there is also a great public health benefit as well. Obesity is set to surpass smoking as the number one cause of preventable health issues in Ontario, so encouraging people to get out walking and rolling is something that we really need to focus on.