Questions for our 2015 Federal Election Candidates

Well, here we are in the midst of another election. …So many issues, myriad solutions from our potential leaders. Here are some of my questions:

  1. Does your party support the Ontario Liberal’s upcoming Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and if not, what will you be doing to put pressure on the Ontario Government to prevent it from being implemented?
  2. How will you cap all greenhouse gas emissions?


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The mystery of the pole in Davenport Road

Yes, as strange as it seems, there is a pole in the middle of the northbound lane of Davenport near Old Abbey.  How did it get there, you ask?…and why?

Turns out that the roundabout that we all thought was forgotten is acutally moving forward.–there-s-a-hydro-pole-stuck-in-the-middle-of-a-waterloo-road-exactly-as-planned

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The Salvation Army Needs Your Help this Christmas!

We all know what great work the Salvation Army does. As a Charitable Organization, it is one of the most effective users of your donations.

With Christmas only days away, The Salvation Army is calling on Canadians to help fill kettles on street corners, store fronts and online as fundraising is still $6 million short of the $19 million goal. To date, The Salvation Army has collected $13 million in the nearly 2,000 kettles across the country. Kettles will continue accepting donations through Christmas Eve.

Click here to find ways that you can help!       Merry Christmas!    ….Blaine

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New Year – New Tax Increase?

Evidently, municipal tax increases at twice the rate of inflation is becoming the standard in the City of Waterloo. It’s been happening for the past four years – over 12% in tax increases vs. just over 6% for inflation – and in spite of outcry from residents, our newly re-elected council doesn’t appear to want to change this approach anytime soon.  We’ve been told that it’s “…a fiscally responsible approach” and “…a very fair rate.”  How responsible would be for your family or business to be spending more than they bring in?  Simply put, if you need to spend more on something, you need to cut back someplace else…unless you’re fortunate enough to have an unlimited source of funds like the pockets of the residents of Waterloo. 

For further information, see the article in today’s Record, “Tax hike to follow water hike in Waterloo”.

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Moving Forward

I’d like to start with a sincere Thank-You! to everyone that supported me in my bid to become Waterloo Council’s representative for Ward 4.  The campaign was a very positive experience for me and meeting with the residents was particularly enlightening and engaging.  I plan to use all of this “civic energy” that I’ve gathered throughout the past few weeks to move forward with my volunteering efforts and quite likely in participation on one or more of the city boards or committees that are currently recruiting for members.

Down the road, perhaps we can build some momentum towards establishing some new Neighbourhood Associations in our ward.  These associations are a critical element in the advancement of community pride and safety.  If there is anyone in the ward that is interested in helping out with the implementation of a neighbourhood association in Ward 4, please contact me.

Finally, I would like to extend my congratulations to Diane Freeman on her successful campaign.  Clearly the citizens of Waterloo were happy with the performance of the last council and I’m sure we will all benefit from the experience that they’ve gained from their last 4 years.  Let’s all give them our support and the feedback that they need to make Waterloo great!

Best Regards,   …Blaine

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Three of our biggest challenges…

SPENDING.  We need to clearly understand our costs and determine our specific needs in order to prioritize our spending.  We cannot continue to burden residents with tax increases.  Over the past 4 years, Waterloo council has hiked its total payroll costs by 38%, an increase of $15,000,000 – the highest in the Region.  Furthermore, at the end of 2009, Waterloo’s Debt totaled $73,000,000; 13 cents of every tax dollar goes to the debt.  We need to look at financially successfully municipalities – like Mississauga – to learn what works and what doesn’t.  I am convinced that we must thoughtfully work with the money that we have and pay down our debt before we can move forward. 

TRAFFIC CONGESTION affects more than just temperaments. It is environmentally destructive, affects our quality of life and wastes gas.  We must start by determining the causes behind our increasing congestion and then prioritize cost-effective actions to correct the problem.  Solutions may include improving mass transit (with consideration for the environment), encouraging the use of alternative methods of transportation, including walking and cycling, and improving the existing flow of traffic.

ADVOCATING FOR SENIORS.  We will shortly have the greatest number of seniors in history and we need to prepare NOW.  We need to shore up our subsidized services, support our seniors in their choice to live at home and facilitate the building of more long-term care facilities.  Consider volunteering for seniors; it is a rewarding and enriching experience where you will develop some meaningful relationships.  I welcome any opportunity to participate on committees related to support for seniors.

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The LRT debate

Light Rail Transit (LRT) has been suggested as one of the more environmentally friendly and practical solutions to our increasing traffic congestion.  It is based on the assumption that there will be adequate ridership to support its operations, scheduled to begin in 2014.  A further assumption is that there will be an increase of 100,000 people in the central transit corridor (intensification).

The estimated cost of implementing LRT is $790M (some say as high as $820M).  With Federal funding of $265M and Provincial funding of $300M, we are faced with a shortfall of at least $225M.  It can only be expected that Regional taxpayers will have to cover this shortfall.

As a resident, I cannot support the additional spending to implement LRT.

On the positive side, the LRT is a forward-looking proposal that suits the linear pattern between Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge.  It is suggested that it will decrease our road-lane requirements for the next 20 years by 40% (some estimate that there would be a savings of $200M).

On the other hand, some groups estimate that regional taxes will have to rise by approximately 9% to build and operate LRT.  People question the lack of flexibility and are concerned about parking and how they will get to and from the LRT stops.  Mississauga, Hamilton and London don’t have LRT (although Ottawa is exploring it).  Brampton is very pleased with the implementation of their new ZUM buses (similar to iXpress).

Could we simply implement smaller, environmentally-positive buses that would provide more flexibility in routes and schedules?  New Electric buses are replacing fossil-fuelled models in some cities.  We need improved practical mass-transit connection with the GTA along existing routes to take the single-rider burden off Highways 7, 8 and 401.

In any case, we need to thoughtfully and thoroughly review what it will cost the City of Waterloo if the funding isn’t provided.

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I like Waterloo pretty much the way it is so I do not personally support discussions on Amalgamation.  It seems to me that our two notable cities have somewhat different backgrounds, heritage and values and each is special in its own unique way.  Both cities have distinct and well-known identities that would be lost to a degree as components of some larger, blended entity.

On the cost side, it’s been shown that per capita, it costs more to run a large city than a smaller one.  It’s been estimated, based on mergers of other cities, that taxes might increase by 20-30%.  Simply entering discussions is estimated to be a significant expense to taxpayers (some have suggested upwards of 2 million dollars) at a time when nobody is interested in spending more money.  Other communities that have amalgamated are not all that positive about the result. 

However, it does make sense to support efforts to examine certain services and activities to see if there are any opportunities for collaboration.  Perhaps we could explore potential combined efficiencies in areas such as libraries, sports and some emergencies services.  It’s all about improving services while keeping costs down for the residents of Waterloo.

Nevertheless, it is a councillor’s duty to respect and uphold the wishes of the community and if elected, regardless of personal preferences, I will respect those wishes and work hard to represent your voice.    …Blaine

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A Clean and Beautiful Waterloo

In my recent debate, I was asked to explain about my proposed “Clean and Beautiful” program.  I must confess that I came across this concept during my research into ways to foster Community Pride.  This program fit the bill perfectly and I was really pleased to have stumbled onto it.

In a nutshell, the Clean & Beautiful program is committed to creating awareness, ownership, and the involvement of the community in the cleanliness and beautification of the city.  It has been shown that successful implementation of this program fosters economic investment, increases property values, and contributes to safety and order…all of which add to a better quality of life and a healthier environment for its residents. 

This program has been applied across the continent, in cities both small and large, including Toronto, Phoenix and Tucson AZ, Peach County GA and Oakland CA, to name a few.  It’s really nothing new but the beauty of it is that it’s primarily a volunteer-managed effort.

For a fine example of how this program works, read about the successes in the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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Support the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada

As a friend of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, you can help improve their Brain Tumour Patient Resource Handbooks through the Pepsi Refresh Project Challenge. By voting for their proposal as often as you can until October 31st, BTFC will be eligible to receive $100,000 in funding. 

In 2009, 6,915 Patient Resource Handbooks were provided to patients and family members affected by a brain tumour. Between 2002 and 2009, a total of 52,753 Pediatric and Adult Patient Resource Handbooks were distributed across Canada.

You can help create updated resource handbooks by simply voting every day for their Pepsi Refresh proposal.  Please sign up today!

The winner is determined by the most votes received.  Thanks for your support!   …Blaine

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