Municipal elections in Waterloo Region will be held on October 27. With half a year to go until ballots are cast, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo has reached out to every mayoral candidate in the region who has officially filed to run.
Each candidate has answered the same five questions, and their replies will be reproduced. Today we speak to Rami Said, who is running to be the next mayor of Waterloo.
1. What’s the most important issue in your city for the next council term?
The major issue of council in the next term will likely be budget control. With many major projects approved and preparing to be executed such as the LRT and the revitalization of the Uptown core, balancing the books becomes ever more important. Many citizens in the city are concerned that our property taxes, which already rival many larger cities such as Toronto, will continue to increase. At the rate we are going, our sustainability, especially in the middle class, is beginning to dwindle. Without proper management and vision from council, we risk going over budget and in turn having to increase our property taxes.
2. Voter turnout is notoriously low, especially in municipal politics. How will you engage voters?
I believe in building for the future. That being said, the only way this is possible is to engage with the young voters and students who reside in the City of Waterloo. I believe educating our students that they can in fact vote is crucial. Many students that I’ve spoken with have no idea they are able to vote. It is also important to appeal to their interests as it will not only help them feel more included in our community, it will in turn help get more of them out to vote. In my personal opinion, the city has not done an acceptable job of taking care of one the largest groups of people who reside in Waterloo, and it’s time to change that. With the student population at the University of Waterloo being larger than the entire voter turnout at the last municipal election, proper education and assistance in the youth and student vote market could make a major and lasting impact on our municipal politics.
In Waterloo we pride ourselves on being leaders in the technological field. With many great leaders in the tech industry residing in the region, we should begin building towards the future by laying the groundwork for taking voting to an electronic system. Companies such as BlackBerry have built some of the world’s most secure systems, and in working with them, Waterloo could be a world leader in some of the most secure and accessible voting systems. The reality is, the best way to increase voter turnout is to make it more easily accessible.
3. What would you say is your biggest weakness?
I believe my biggest weakness is my age. As a young candidate it can be difficult at times to have people take you seriously. In starting my own business at 19 years of age in the oil industry, an industry with many parallels to politics as it is robust with a much older generation, I have been through this challenge before. I believe many will see my young age as a lack of experience, a point in which I have proven wrong to many. In reality, the mayor’s position is to help provide a vision for the future and work with city council to make it a reality. Although my young age may be a weakness in the eyes of some, it is also an asset in that I am not stuck in my ways. As a young business owner, I am always looking to work with others to create the best possible outcome for the future. I believe my open philosophy to work with others and drive to build a future that I myself plan to be part of for a long time to come is an asset that my young age allows.
4. Who is your political role model, and why?
I would love to answer saying that my political role model is Francis Underwood from House of Cards. However, that probably doesn’t constitute as a real answer seeing as he is a fictional character. In reality I have always looked up to Bill Clinton as a role model. From being a leader on environmental change and an advocate on social services such as welfare and medical leave, Bill Clinton has shown leadership in areas I believe are very important to the future of society. Bill Clinton had also managed to cut taxes on the lowest income families and 90 percent of small business, while still being fiscally conservative and helping to reduce the deficit in the United States of America. As someone who grew up in a lower income household as a young child and is now a small business owner, I relate to the importance and the impact of leadership which strengthens and helps the bottom percentage. Bill Clinton stood for many of the same fundamentals I believe in and although every leader has their flaws, I believe that overall Bill Clinton is a great representation for the type of leader we need in politics.
5. 40 years from now, how do you picture your municipality?
In 40 years from now I picture the municipality of Waterloo to be a world leader in diversity and technology. Although we are on the right track, there is still much work to be done. I believe with proper leadership we can help attract more talent from every walk of life. In building a better community and celebrating what makes us both different and the same we can bring a better sense of belonging to the city. This would help us retain more students who receive top education in our city. In using proper planning and development, we can build a beautiful skyline which functions as an international powerhouse. Through progress the city has already begun implementing, i believe Waterloo will return to a more people-friendly community, with more environmentally friendly forms of transportation, more usable green space, better equipped and maintained pedestrian and bicycle paths and less vehicle congestion. Although right now we are just following in the footsteps of many other great cities with systems like the LRT, I believe we have a population with the intellectual abilities to make us world leaders in change, that can help create a beautiful, livable and workable community in which everyone wants to be part of.