What The Local CFC asked our Municipal Candidates:

1. According to the Social Research and Planning Council’s 2014 Quality of Life Report, 11% of the population in Perth County report that they do not always have enough to eat. How do you plan to support healthy food access for all citizens of Stratford?

2. It is widely agreed amongst the Local’s community members that a lack of bus service in the evenings, Sundays and on holidays is a barrier to employment and community participation. How do you plan to address this need?

3. As of November 2013, there were 226 families on the waiting list for social housing. The Ten-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan calls for the creation of 437 affordable units in order to put forth a “concerted effort to end homelessness and housing need in the communities” (of Perth County). How do you intend to address this urgent need?

Don Robinson – Running for Mayor

1. I plan on adding more soup kitchens, shelters; I would also like to increase the breakfast clubs in schools. I would like to work with the Stratford Chef School to educate people in cooking healthy meals at a low cost. We need to keep the word out there for the need for donations and support of our local food bank.

 2. It has always been a concern of mine that our citizens have a lack of bus service, I plan on adding Sunday and Holiday service and having the buses run until midnight six days a week. I plan on getting the bus service back on time by adding a east end bus and a factory bus to the schedule. I will also be looking at the bus routes for other ways to keep the busses on time.   With the increase in riders, the increase in revenue, and keeping the buses on time the added revenue will help with the increase in the cost for this service.

3. For the short term we have to subsidize rent to get people off the streets until some affordable housing can be built, or additional housing can be acquired. We also need to revamp the housing we have to make sure that the houses are safe for the people living there. We need short term accommodations for the homeless where they can sleep and be feed.

George Brown – Running for Council

1. I will continue to support local Churches who serve meals 6 nights a week and see if they would increase the months they serve.  

2. Until bus service is re alined to cut cost they probably will not change the way they operate. One of my missions if elected will be to make changes happen. I have contacted the manager of buses to ask him to look into cost for smaller buses. If we can make that happen then there should be extra money to implement longer hours etc.

3. I brought forward three different areas last year for social housing and will re introduce in the next term . Are manager resigned prior to being able to present these locations. 

Lorraine Butson – Running for Council

1. In preparing to answer this question, I researched and read and came across the minutes of the City Council meeting from February 2012 regarding the grant of money to the Perth County Food Security Coalition. A number of things struck me while reading these notes but 2 words jumped off the page at me – dignified and respectful. I fully support The Local Community Food Centre because of their programs and their delivery approach and methods. Their desire to give people access to healthy food and food skills, food education and civic engagement in a way that doesn’t diminish the recipients is so important and necessary. Their approach is clearly empowering. The spin-off or corollary benefits of this program are that of it being a homelessness prevention/anti-poverty strategy as well. I am also definitely in support of the 5 local community food banks, Meals to Wheels, Wheels to Meals and the community suppers provided by various churches in our community as I think that they are necessary and serve a great need. Anytime, though, when we have groups like The Local who delve into issues in a mindful approach of empowerment, I think the dividends for all parties are longer lasting.

2. I think that the issue of bus service, in general, needs some review in terms of routes, schedules and the location of buses. I have heard from some stakeholders that they would be interested in expanded service. I would like to hear more details in terms of what changes, in particular, would suit their needs? For example, would a reduced schedule meet the need on Sundays, evenings and holidays? If so, what does that reduced schedule look like? I’ve heard of an idea of having routes that take place only on the arteries of the city. For example, a suggested route included a run from the edge of the city on Erie Street, transiting through uptown and heading out to Mornington Street at the city limits and coming back. In the same vein, a route from the edge of the city on Ontario Street heading the length of the city and turning around at the edge of the city limits on Huron Street. Does this idea have some merit? I think that, like most problem-solving approaches, information needs to be gathered and analyzed for possible outcomes. I often say that you can’t expect me to make a good decision if I don’t have all of the necessary information. Talk to me and see if a workable plan is possible!

3. Again, in my research, I found some things that struck a chord with me. I would want to find out the status of the follow-up/implementation of the following points from the report: 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 2.2, 3.2 and 3.9. These points, generally, refer to including a person with “lived experience” on the Perth County Prevention of Homelessness Committee, implementing common intake and assessment protocols/practices, addressing concerns of data sharing, expanding access to housing resources and to provide advice, information and affordable housing listings and, finally, establishing targets for rental housing in local Official Plans. I support the recommendation that the Service Manager adopt the targets in the “Moving Forward” scenario which outlines a vision of 124 new units in total. One other thing that I would be interested in knowing is the current status of the “Outreach Worker” who was tasked with a preventative and supportive approach to people in social housing or those who hoped to be in social housing. I’m in the process of finalizing an appointment time with Ellen Balmain, Manager of Housing, to get some of this information.

Pat Bolton – Running for Council

1. Until and if things can change the job of food banks is to try to make sure people are fed well in their time of immediate need. They are totally aware of health issues, and try to give the appropriate food. For the 11% of the people in Stratford this facility, and the food banks play a part in teaching how to cook, in a healthy and economical way. The food banks that serve the area do a great job with healthy food distribution. They have had to deal with a fairly large increase in need this year, they have to have a successful drive this thanksgiving and at Christmas. They have no other source of funding.

2. Increasing bus times is a cost sensitive issue and Stratford is dependant on other levels of government for funding. Ridership would have to be high enough to justify the expense. The transportation plan is expanding bike routes in the city, trying to make biking safer to commute to jobs. We do have to be open to new ideas; I would sit down with people who would like to figure out a plan to help people with this.

3. Homelessness is mostly a hidden issue here, the ten year plan counts couch surfing and living with friends and relatives as being homeless. The province has established a minimum of 20% of all housing units will be within the affordable rent range in the private sector. This should include retirement and nursing homes. If all you have are government pensions, there are very few options open to you when it becomes difficult to live on your own. Some of the wait times are as long as three years. There are interest free loans through CMHC to facilitate the development of affordable housing in Canada. PDF loans enable co-ops and other non-profits to carry out the studies and planning required to bring their proposal to the point where they can apply for mortgage financing. To be eligible your proposed project must increase the current stock of affordable housing and be a minimum of 5 units and meet affordability criteria. And yes, these processes’ move along at a snails pace, making sure the ten year plan takes ten years.

Dave Gaffney – Running for Council

1. I think healthy food choices are facilitated through economic development; education about healthy food choices and access to healthy food. As a board member of The Bard of Avon Housing Co-Op, we have recently partnered with the Local Community Food Centre to provide healthy food choices for the members of the co-op. I would work with City Council to support new and innovative initiatives to education and to help provide access to healthy food.

2. A way I would suggest to be able to expand the hours of bus service in Stratford is to look at maybe a return of the DART ( Dial a Ride Transit) system that was used Stratford back in the day. Otherwise I would work with City council and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to lobby the provincial government to increase the share of the gas tax rebate to the City so we might afford to increase our bus services.

3. In my three years as a volunteer board member at the Bard of Avon housing co-op, a project in distress, in the time that I have served, I have learned the co-op system of both market and rent geared to income housing can work. I will work with the Mayor and City Council to reach out to the Ontario Government to ask for funding for land purchases and construction costs, it can be a very good system to provide affordable housing to those with a need for affordable housing in Stratford.

Bonnie Henderson – Running for Council

1. Through the PDHU (Perth District Health Unit) board which I sit on we have sent letters to the Ministry to try and get more money to ensure healthy foods for those in need.   I support the local community food centre and the local food centres in our city and encourage people to donate by actively sharing these needs on facebook.   I would support resolutions that would come to council on this need.  I also will continue to be an advocate for the minimum wage to be raised.

2. I agree that it is hard to get around our city on Sundays and later in the evenings.   I have already asked that they look at adding Sunday buses in the 2015 budget.   There have been some ideas suggesting going to 1 hr routes on weekends and possibly changes the times during the week so we can add longer hours and add Sunday to the schedule.   It’s important that people can get around our city. If you have any ideas I would welcome your thoughts on this.

3. I have been encouraging developers/builders to build more apartments, semi’s & townhouses in our city.   Social Services currently have started subsidizing people in their current homes to help out with expenses until an affordable home becomes available. It’s important that we continue to lobby the provincial government to come up with funding for affording housing. I will continue to pass resolutions that address this need in our community.  

 John Hotson – Running for Council

1. I would support healthy food access for Citizens of Stratford by continuing to support the current City’s initiatives. Currently the City provides somewhere around $600 000. in grants to many worthwhile community groups. There are City owned lands used to plant gardens for community groups in the summer. Social agencies who have charitable status, for example the house of blessing would receive 40% decrease in property taxes. I believe this is a Provincial and Federal issue also so I would explore what incentives they may be able to provide. For instance the ministry of agriculture gives incentives to farmers who will donate produce to charitable organizations. If someone had a specific program in mind I’d be happy to look at that also and explore what opportunities might be available. 

2. I believe we would have to look at how we could re locate hours of service, number of routes and running times to see if there is a way to increase hours of service to include evenings and weekends. Currently the City subsidizes upwards of 50 % of the cost to run the bus service. We no it costs tax payers $1.7 million a year or $7500. a day to run the busses. So we would need to look for efficiencies and cost savings to be able to add additional run times to include weekends and evenings. Maybe there is an opportunity elsewhere that we could look at financially that would make sense or another means of service. Again I would be happy to look at idea’s if someone has something they would like to propose.

3. Social housing and the creation of 187 affordable units is an issue that would be tough for the City of Stratford to do on our own and subsidize the rent. The City needs support from not only the Provincial Government but the Federal Government also. I would support looking into a program where the 3 levels of government split the cost by 1/3 each. Until we can get the money we need from the various levels of government I would continue the City’s current, rent geared to income program that is currently in place. Maybe we could look at a joint venture with the private sector to make something work. Or use current city lands such as the Old Stratford fair grounds as an incentive with a private developer.  

Again I am open to looking at any suggestions that anyone would be interested in putting forward. Thank you again. johnhotson4council@gmail.com

Danielle Ingram – Running for Council

1. Access to healthy foods go hand in hand with economic and geographic barriers. In order to bridge this gap, we need to address affordable housing. The City may choose to adopt provisions through the Zoning By-law review, which would incorporate tactical urbanism strategies. Tactical urbanism strategies allow for temporary or short-term uses on underutilized properties. This allows someone to be able to ‘try’ an idea before any permanent solutions are required. For instance, the triangular piece of land between the YMCA and St. Paul’s church, bound by Waterloo and Downie Streets, could be a location for a small community garden. There would be sufficient space to create a garden in the middle, while providing safety barriers and buffers from the surrounding traffic. Also through the Zoning By-law review, I would like to see regulations supporting the creation of community gardens, community kitchens, local fresh food markets, local fresh food distribution programs, and permissions for “fresh and healthy food” retail uses in neighbourhoods with little or no access to such uses. I would further support more access to community outreach programs focusing on the creation of one’s own vegetable garden, and support healthy food options in all public buildings.

2. Today’s society is no longer a work free Sunday society, therefore transit services need to fit with the busy, modern lifestyle. Transit should be a constant evolution of routes and schedules, and so, I would like to see statistics gathered on the number of people getting on/off at each stop, the locations of the stop, and the time of day for each value before making any long-term decisions. This could easily be done by having a co-op student ride the bus and track the information. I would also like to see higher density development directed to areas along transit routes.

In the meantime, I would support Sunday transit service as a 1-year pilot program to see how successful it is. To increase transit ridership overall, I would suggest providing door to door service at the retirement and nursing homes, launching special or discounted fare programs such as family passes on a Saturday or Sunday, and to work with local employers to create work plan commuter passes. Another option to increase ridership would be to extend the length of the valid transfer time to allow people to make a complete trip in less than 3 hours. Once statistics are gathered and the ridership increases, it is easier to make longer term decisions about extending hours.

3. I would like to ensure a healthy working relationship with Perth County is maintained and to pursue every possible grant to assist with providing housing. I would also like to explore the ability to create a Community Improvement Project Area covering the entire City, as permitted under Section 28 of the Planning Act. The implementing Community Improvement Plan could then provide for developers to create affordable housing unit(s) when converting buildings from rental accommodation to condominium ownership. In terms of conversion of rental accommodations, I would like to ensure that the City maintains a healthy supply of rental accommodations, ensuring that the vacancy rate is at or above 3% for at least a three year period. Having the vacancy rate at or above 3% shows that there is sufficient supply of rental accommodations in the City, and the market can handle the reduction of units being converted into ownership units. Lastly, the City could also pursue the idea of requiring a restrictive covenant be applied to the sale of any City land for residential development stating that a specific number of units must be affordable housing.

Dan Kane – Running for Council

1. It’s very appropriate that this question is being asked at a Local Community Food Centre event. Pooling the resources of farmers, grocery stores and the community are key to healthy food access.  Education on healthy food choices the preparation and storage of healthy seasonal foods is essential to meet this gap.  

2. My plan for extending the transit system starts with increasing the ridership within the current timeframe.  Currently in Stratford if you have access to a car, the car wins.  We need to get more people using transit.  The buses are busy twice a day, once in the morning and once in the mid afternoon.  Outside of this timeframe they are mostly empty.  For people that rarely use the Stratford buses it’s hard to know where the bus routes are, when they run and how to transfer.  I am suggesting the city purchase a smart phone app with the bus schedules, routes and arrival times.  We also need to return the bus route names and arrival times to the bus stops.  In addition to this I would like to see transfer times increased to 90 minutes.  This way you could use the bus as a convenient way to run errands across town.  Once the ridership is up then extending the schedules to allow even more riders becomes an easier decision to justify.

A couple weeks ago I created a video on this topic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsAPSiF4bT0

3. I understand the need for affordable housing.  In 1976 My mom, sister and I accessed geared to income housing during a brief transition period.  This valuable resource allowed my mom to keep working and provide for us as we made a new life for ourselves.  I would suggest that we make a mix of affordable housing mandatory as part of all new development in Stratford, not merely a recommendation that can be overridden.  As more units become available on the market the supply of these units will lower the costs. 

 Stephen Landers – Running for Council

1. Every Saturday morning I have the pleasure of going to the Farmers’ market.  The good food and the feeling of community are wonderful.  If it would be feasible, I’d like to see special busses to take people to the market on Saturday mornings. This would take the form of a market special for a few hours each Saturday.  It could also be possible for busses to change their routes to include the market on Saturday.  Local food is always better.  Even in the winter, when most produce comes from the Ontario Food Terminal, the food is better quality at the market.

We need to do more to set up and organize community gardens. This would involve very little cost for the city.

My firm, BDO Canada, is a major player in the annual Drive Away Hunger campaign, with every one of its 95 offices across Canada participating. It’s time to throw down the gauntlet to other businesses.  Every cent that our offices raise stays in the local communities.

2. The direct cost of extending bus service is about $7,500 per day.  Perhaps if we had more riders, extended service would be an option.  The City has factory specials that run during shift changes at our local factories.  We simply do not have the population density to warrant extended bus service.

3. The number of housing units required is 187 for Stratford.  I believe that you are referring to the OrgCode Report from September, 2013.  All of the recommendations in this report are being implemented. 

There is a Housing/Homeless Committee meeting on a regular basis, there is increased funding from the Federal and Provincial Governments.  For those who want to purchase their own homes but can’t afford the 5% down payment, there is a twenty year loan that is forgiven if the owner lives in that home for 20 years.  Since 2007, 46 loans have been advanced. There are also interest-free loans  under the Ontario Renovates program, to assist people to remain in their houses.  These programs indirectly make more rental accommodation available.

Simply stated, let our Housing Authority get one with the job.

Frank Mark – Running for Council

1. Continue to support the present programs in the schools for a healthy breakfast. Improve the information & direction for those in need as to how and where they can get the assistance they need.

2. Explore the possibility of providing additional funding through the budget process, perhaps from the gas Tax funding that we receive, to increase the hours of operation for the bus service.

3. Work through our associations such as FCM and AMO, to encourage the Federal and Provincial governments to come up with a fair and reasonable funding program that will encourage private / public partnerships to create sound housing projects to reduce this shortage of affordable housing. 

Kerry McManus – Running for Council

1. I have and will address the Province’s decisions on funding for programs supporting those in need.

I would support a community organization in the implementation of a program similar to Not Far From the Tree which helps homeowners harvest from fruit and nut trees while supporting local food banks.

I am grateful for the programmes that develop food skills at community organizations and schools. These are an important component in building a healthy community. I will support them through promotion and will consider any requests made for support.

I would help build community awareness of the needs and support initiatives that bring the needs of those struggling to meet their daily food requirements to light in our community. Stratford is a generous community and greater awareness will translate into action.

Sy Wise said, “No burden is heavy if everyone lifts.” I will work develop and advocate for policies as a City Councillor and I will encourage others to find ways to make a difference.

2. Public transit is a vital service for many in our community. It connects them to where they live, work and play. It is rarely used by many and I see an opportunity to look for improvements that would increase the ridership while maintaining a robust system for those who rely on it.

Transit will be looked at in the next term for a number of reasons. It provides an important service, connecting individuals to the community. The current depot behind City Hall is being reviewed within the context of the Market Square Project. Lastly, as Stratford works with Pravala, I hope we will learn from their work how to strengthen and improve our transit system.

I support Sunday transit and would work with Council, staff and the community to look at opportunities to build a more efficient transit system. Some possibilities include allowing for transfers for a prescribed amount of time rather than simply at City Hall; creating an east-west route that could help increase ridership due to the reduced time required to travel to key retail areas in the City.

3. I worked with staff and consultants to develop the Housing & Homelessness Plan. We listened to citizens I will continue to advocate for affordable housing in the next phase of the Fairgrounds’ development. I would like Council to consider multi-residential fronting onto Britannia Street.

I would work with the new Director of Social Services to see what lands other municipalities in Perth may be able to provide to add additional housing stock to meet the demands.

When a new Director of Social Services is in place, I will ask them to consider how residents could be supported in exploring opportunities for second suites in existing residences.

Scott Mitchell – Running for Council

1. The place that I would begin if given the opportunity to represent the citizens of Stratford as a city councillor on the issue of accessibility to healthy food is in – of all places – corner stores. Now, that may seem like an odd place to start, but I believe it is an opportunity.

Given that these stores are often the main neighbourhood source for groceries for people with accessibility and mobility issues, and for those of low to modest incomes, it is disturbing to see the trends in what they offer. The quantity and quality of healthy food choices in our corner stores is shrinking. Beyond the chips, chocolate bars, pop, and energy drinks it is hard to find more than a few loaves of bread, some milk, and processed meat and cheese. Even these items are priced high as we are all aware to allow for this nearby convenience.

I propose that we investigate the possibility of a program between the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market vendors and our corner store proprietors. As our Vendors leave at around noon-time from the Farmer’s Market with their fresh produce, why not have them each partner with a local corner store owner and see if they can then make their remaining healthy food available to customers who may not be able to access the market or our large grocery stores. What a great opportunity to strengthen the rural-urban bond that is so important in this community.

The recent Quality of Life Report indicated that 55% of our residents are either overweight or obese. This reality means that it isn’t always access to food that is the issue, but access to healthy food. I believe an effort to create a partnership of this kind may serve notice that we aim to stem the tide and are willing to provide the necessary leadership.

I am also opposed to the possible future sale of beer and liquor in corner stores. While it may be convenient for people, it would only reduce the number of healthy food choices for those with already limited access. Again, it isn’t just about accessing food – especially for the 11% in question, it is about accessing healthy food. (For the record: If our large retail grocery stores want to carry beer and liquor, I would have fewer objections).

2. Limited transit service as a barrier to employment and community participation?? It really isn’t a transit issue: The issue is that people need to get around and they face obstacles. Transit may very well be doing the best it can, given the circumstances. Our current transit system is in need of a re-vamping without question given the low ridership and the costs of maintaining a large fleet – which as outgoing Councillor Famme suggested be expanded to create a morning and evening made-in-Stratford GO Transit system. It could reach the KW Go station and perhaps the Woodstock via rail station daily for would-be Stratford commuters.

 We do have options to alleviate the barriers our citizens find themselves facing though:

 i) We can help promote ride-sharing networks among citizen groups, thereby taking advantage of the recent Quality of Life Report that indicated our “high community connectedness.”

ii) We can continue to build more city-wide bike paths and pedestrian friendly alternatives, which supports one of three of our city’s strategic priority pillars.

iii) And if we are really serious we can expand the parallel transit system to offer ‘after hours’ services to city-approved employers and/or for participation in community organizations.

 3. After having examined our new 10 year Housing and Homelessness plan I noticed that there is something glaringly missing: targets. It suggests what success will look like but not how many units ought to be the goal in a given period of time. It is one thing to say we need to create 437 affordable units in the next 10 years, it is quite another to say how many we will make it our goal to achieve in year 1 … year 2 … etc. When we set targets stakeholders know what to aim for.

It is my understanding that among the 437 in need of affordable housing, 187 are in the city of Stratford, with the remaining 250 or so in the rest of Perth County. My proposal would see the city commit to dedicating no fewer than 20 units be built on the former Rotary arena/Fairgrounds as a condition of sale to any perspective developer. That target of 20 units sends a message that we are serious about moving forward and that we are a community that values all of its citizens. The land on the old Fairgrounds site is perfect for those with growing families because it is already within established neighbourhoods. It’s within walking distance to all three high schools and three more elementary schools. And for those of low to modest incomes or with accessibility issues it is on the bus route. Let’s make it our goal to create 80 units in this next four-year term.

Ed Montgmery – Running for Council

2. There is no doubt in my mind that appropriate allocation of resources could provide 7 day a week bus service.  As someone who walks and uses the buses, I’m very familar with this problem.  There is definite waste of resources in the budget, so I don’t believe it would be a problem to allocate sufficient fnds for Sunday buses.  However, it may also be necessary to look at routes and timetables to find optimum solutions.  In any case, 7 day a week bus service should be a high priority, which benefits employees  getting to work and appointments, and benefits businesses by transporting customers.  Let’s get rolling! 🙂

 Cody Sebben – Running for Council

1. Healthy food access for all Stratford residents is essential. This is something that the city needs to follow closely and to work cooperatively with support services. I have spoken with families struggling weekly to feed their children who find few things more frustrating than public dollars being spent on anything else when there is a demonstrated need for food in our community.

Of course, money must be spent on countless projects throughout the city to make Stratford work as it does. I believe our city needs to provide more funding to address the demonstrated need for access to healthy food, just as is the case when any level of government identifies a need for an essential service – no question access to food is essential.

Council needs to be creative. One idea is to ask for a food donation to accompany admission price for city-organized events to help bridge the gap of available resources. I believe Stratford needs to stop resisting development of land throughout the city that has been vacant for [in some cases] decades and work with developers so we can benefit from more revenue to put back into essential services such as the House of Blessing, the Salvation Army, and the Local Community Food Centre, and various other “soup kitchens” some families so dearly need.

2. Stratford’s current transit system has many opportunities for improved efficiency. Most cities with any significant transit system do not have all buses meet at central location for transfers. Rather, two or three routes are made to overlap in a way that makes sense to move passengers more swiftly to their destination. Removing a central spot to converge would also eliminate buses in the downtown area, aside from a single stop.

There is no need for Stratford to run full-size busses during the entire service period. Full size busses are only needed when a peak in passengers occurs, namely when school is beginning and ending. Prince Albert, BC noted that they added 23-seat busses to their fleet at half the cost of full size ones, and cite their operating costs at one third that of their full-size counterparts.

By addressing these noted inefficiencies we will be able to make a limited Sunday service more affordable. This is very important because people who rely on public transit rely on it seven days a week, not six.

3. This is an important issue that not only effects people on the waiting list, but dictates their life while enduring the wait. There are several actions Stratford can take to help address this urgent need. Currently Stratford’s housing development consists of mostly single dwelling homes. We need to encourage more compact structures, such as “fourplexes” developed in Listowel. Publicizing local knowledge about community needs will help the private and non-profit sector identify ways to contribute solutions. I believe we need to support alternative building standards that reduce the cost of housing provided they meet the standards of the Ontario Building Code. It’s time we established more incentive programs to facilitate the conversion of underutilized non-residential space into more efficient residential space.

When you arrive home tonight consider the more than 200 people on a waiting list and understand why most importantly we need to take action now.

Karen Smythe – Running for Council

1. With 11% of the population going without food, as a community we need to campaign for more donations to fill our food banks. I understand that high school students have to volunteer so many hours in the community to complete their diploma. One suggestion would be to approach the school boards for permission to allow the students to canvas door to door for donations. People are more apt to donate a few items from their cupboards as opposed to dropping a few things off at the food bank.

Unfortunately we have lost lot of our manufacturing industry. Economic Development is the key here. The city has completed the first step by developing Wright Blvd. for industrial use. The new SEED Corp.’s main focus is to research and attract new business to our community which will create more jobs.

2. Without the support of extra funding it will be difficult to extend the bus hours. A few years ago we did a busing review of hours and ridership. We can take another look at this report to address the shifts and trends. During the hours of low rider usage some of the routes can be altered to create a saving which could be applied to extension of bus hours. The 2014 Budget for Transit:

Wages                               $2,257,298.00

Fuel Cost                          $   340,000.00

Maintenance                  $   135,000.00

Total Cost                         $2,732,298.00

Revenue                          $1,034,000.00 includes bus fares and advertising

Tax Base                           $1,698,298.00

The cost of a new bus is $500,000 which is funded from the gas tax.

3. Federal and Provincial funding is required to support housing projects. The city can identify and reserve land for the development of housing projects. When the Federal or Provincial governments announce that they have monies to support housing projects we can start the process to select a developer. Also we can urge the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to put pressure on the Province to financially support these needed housing projects.

Kathy Vassilakos – Running for Council

1. The same Quality of Life Report stated that 18% of children under the age of 6 live below the poverty line. Given this data, one could infer that many of those with food insecurity are families with young children. In addition, there are many studies to support a conclusion that many people with illness and/or disability are living close to or under the poverty line and have a limited food budget. It would be an understatement to say that both these conditions are unacceptable.

The city, in collaboration with other community organizations including the LCFC, Community Meals, Meals on Wheels, PDHU, School Boards, Early Years Centre etc., should expand collaborative efforts in order to address the issue of food insecurity and bring programs directly to those who need help. Well-coordinated education programs to help people identify and choose options that are nutritious and affordable are helpful as are community meals and school programs. However: Question 1 cannot be answered without addressing Question 3 at the same time. Another key piece of data from Quality of Life Report is that rental and owned housing in Stratford is expensive when you factor in average household income. For citizens on Ontario Works or ODSP, their housing allowance does not cover the cost of housing unless they are in geared-to-income housing. Healthy food costs money and when a disproportionate amount of income goes to housing there is little left to buy other essentials. Education can go part way to help people make their resources go further but education cannot make up the gap that exists. Food programs at schools and through community meals are also important components but again these should not be the sole methods of filling in the gaps. We need to ensure that everyone can feed themselves and their families well. Better pay for those who can work (i.e. reduce the percent working poor) and financial dignity for those unable to work should be the long term goal.

Additional thoughts:

Many years ago another parent and I started the healthy snack program at Bedford – a program funded jointly by the OSNP and Bedford School Council. The program provided daily snack options for children who did not have enough food – regardless the reason and in an environment that was as non-stigmatizing as possible. It also had an education component in the form of whole school participation in monthly Fresh Fruit and Veggie Fridays (first year of the program) and then Healthy Snack Days after that. This experience makes me certain that community has a pivotal role in the challenge of improving access to healthy food.

2. A complete review of current bus routes – when they are used, where they are needed, and how they can be adjusted on weekends – is required to address how we can provide Sunday bus service. The routes during the week, when students need the service, may very well be different than those needed on the weekend and evenings. I would absolutely advocate for a review process and feel that this review should include input from the community to identify the details of where Sunday/evening/holiday service is needed (both point of departure, route and destination), although we may find the need is city wide. We also have to look at the fare structure to determine if ridership can be improved with lower cost or non-timed transfer options to allow for multiple stops on a single ride ticket.

 Additional thoughts:

 Well-planned expanded service should benefit system users but I would argue that it pays dividends to our overall sense of community and our goal of accessibility and inclusion. My mother has never driven and relies on the bus system for her independence and so I know first-hand how important the system is to seniors especially in the colder months.

3. The city has to advocate for upper levels of government to get back in to providing affordable housing. The reality is that the cost of providing affordable housing and the resulting “return on investment” precludes extensive private sector investment. That leaves government and non-profit organizations to address the issue. I would love to see the city explore partnerships with non-profit organizations to bring more co-operative housing to Stratford – where market units are offered along with geared-to-income subsidized units.

Additional thoughts:

My niece has been fortunate to live in two such housing co-ops (Hospital Workers Housing Co-Op and the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto Section, Bathurst Prince Charles) and they are absolutely wonderful in terms of creating diverse and inclusive communities.

 Jeffrey Walsh – Running for Council

1. Perth County is more agriculturally productive than 6 of Canada’s provinces — which given how generous local food producers are, makes this statistic quite concerning and not just ironic. I would want to know more about the logistical, transportation and distribution issues.

I think that The Local’s storage and distribution relationships with local food programs (food banks, meal programs) is a great example of creatively and proactively addressing such logistics.

2. A significant segment of our community does shift work — that would be in both Manufacturing and the Hospitality sectors. So it is to the City’s economic benefit to support public transit that is both affordable and timely.

I realize that transit planning is a statistical and financial balancing act (funding sources, etc.), so perhaps we need more input from the employers about what they and their employees need. I like what Partners in Employment did when they surveyed employers to find out what they needed in terms of skills. That way, policy and spending are grounded in reality.

3. Affordable housing is a fundamental need for a stable and inclusive city. Part of the solution is ensuring the zoning and permit process facilitates a balanced housing market, including the lower end of the spectrum. The point being to work with people who are motivated and creative about this need.

I like what Jubilee Christian Fellowship did in creating Vineyard Village at the foot of Downie Street. There are answers, and Stratford has motivated and creative people, so let’s make sure the regulatory channels are open and moving for them with less red tape.

Also Running:

For Mayor:

  • Dan Mathieson
  • Matthew Murphy
  • Martin Weatherall

For Council:

  • Brad Beatty
  • Roger Black
  • Graham Bunting 
  • Tom Clifford 
  • Keith Culliton
  • Marianne Hawley 
  • Larry Labelle
  • Martin Nolan 
  • Sheri Patterson 
  • Martin Ritsma
  • Dale Walters