Oct 25 municipal election preview
With a resume that boasts eleven years of service as a regional councilor for the City of Waterloo, Mike Connoly is the most experienced of the candidates on a municipal level.
As a candidate in Ward 6, Connoly acknowledges Northdale as a dominant issue and points to civic failure as a major factor in the neighbourhood’s current state. Connoly explained, “What’s happened in Northdale is that houses were being sold and made rental units without licensing them. The city had a good rule that you couldn’t build one licensed house within 125 yards of another one. That hasn’t been kept.” It is lack of complicity with city regulations on the part of builders and landlords and poor oversight by the city that Connoly believes has led to a lack of demographic diversity in the area. In his opinion, insufficient licensing has affected not only the balance of the area, but the living conditions for students. Essentially, the “city can’t control some of [the houses], because some of the people don’t license their houses and we can’t check if they’re safe.”
As a 30-year resident of Waterloo and current Ward 6 resident, Anne Crowe understands the issues in Northdale on a personal level.
The family doctor who was the first to enter her name in the race attributes her decision to run for office with the increasing problems in the area. “I don’t think the current situation is fair to students and I certainly don’t think its fair to current residents” she remarked, noting the increasingly diminished local population and living conditions in the area. “When you get to a certain point, students start to feel that this is a student neighbourhood so certain behaviours which would normally be unacceptable almost become the norm,” Crowe said.
While holding her own neighbourhood in contrast to Northdale, Crowe explained, “Our street has probably three-quarters of the houses occupied by students and we don’t have the same problems as Northdale because the students can respect the fact that there are still permanent residents in the area.”
Outside of Northdale, Crowe proposes plans of community beautification and environmental sustainability. “I’m very interested in creating a healthy community, from bike trails and walking trails to greening the community” she said, drawing upon her experience as a physician. “I think that fits in well with the university, making the area healthier psychologically and physically in a broad holistic sense”
As a University of Waterloo (UW) graduate who is currently employed as the academic integrity officer within the UW’s faculty of mathematics, Jeff Henry believes he is familiar with the student perspective in a way which other three ward candidates are not. “[Students] should consider who will be able to best represent and listen to their voice, and understand where they’re coming from. It’s not too long removed since I was representing student interests,” Henry said in reference to his position as VP of education for UW’s Federation of Students (Feds), which he held from 2004-2006.
Emphasizing his desire to integrate the student viewpoint, Henry assured, “What I can promise off the bat is to always be willing to sit down with the [Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union] and the Feds on a regular basis, and listen to what their concerns are and to be able to balance some of the neighbourhood’s longer term resident voices with the student voices … we need to be able to listen to both equally.”
Henry has yet to put forth a comprehensive platform or to propose any projects, stating that he plans to complete a process of neighbourhood canvassing and research before coming to specifics. He concluded, “really, it’s up to folks to let me know what they’re particularly interested in doing, so that … [it’s] something that the community is picking because they think its important.”
Local businessman Ed Korshewistcz enters the race with a degree of skepticism about how council has managed the Northdale question thus far. “I’m a businessperson, so I look at this whole situation and I say how can council be making any decisions when they don’t have an official plan?”
The solution Korshewistcz suggests relies on the construction of intensified, high density housing developments. In order to facilitate this, Korshewistcz argues rezoning as a course of action which will benefit not only builders and students but also residents who have been unable to move out of the area due to zoning restrictions. “Some of these builders are paying about $700,000 for a single family residence, but across the street because it’s zoned for single family dwelling the guy can’t even sell his house.”
He clarified that if the city is to simultaneously diversify the area, and encourage an influx of young professionals, builders should not be allowed to construct student apartments unregulated as they have been doing so for the past several years. While making reference to the proliferation of 5-bedroom apartments in the area, which are generally unappealing to non-students, Korshewistcz explained, “Zoning can do it. However, there needs to be some very stringent bylaws and restrictions on that zoning.”
Current Laurier student and sole Ward 7 candidate Erin Epp recognizes the importance of student involvement in the local community and doesn’t subscribe to the prevailing belief that students are entirelytransient with only seasonal roots to the Waterloo area.
“I don’t really buy into the fact that students are 100 per cent a transient population, they’re not. A lot of times, students stay after they complete university here” she argues. “I think that a lot more can be done in terms of engaging with students and making them feel like more a part of the community.”