Kitchener-Waterloo

Infrastructure, affordable housing top issues day after election: Local politicians

Political leaders in Waterloo region and Guelph say they want the re-elected MPs in the area to help them secure funding for infrastructure, affordable housing and green energy projects.

From funding for phase two of LRT to affordable housing, local politicians want the feds to help out

Political leaders in Waterloo region and Guelph say they hope the re-elected MPs for the area will advocate on their behalf for more funding for infrastructure, affordable housing and green energy projects. (Google StreetView)

As the glow of winning Monday's federal election begins to wear off for re-elected MPs in Waterloo region and Guelph, local politicians have a message for them: More money, please.

Regional Chair Karen Redman says MPs in Waterloo region know that the municipality will be seeking funding for affordable housing as well as transit infrastructure including phase two of the LRT into Cambridge.

"We will finish our design for phase two of the LRT this year so in the new year, we'll be knocking on federal and provincial representatives' doors asking for 100 percent funding for phase two because other LRT projects have gotten that level of funding," Redman said.

The region had also asked the provincial and federal government to fund 17 transit projects. The province approved all the projects in late July and sent the paperwork on to the federal government for approvals. The federal government approved five of those projects, including a new bus storage and maintenance facility to be built in Waterloo, at the end of August.

Of the additional 12 projects left, Redman said, "we're really hoping to see those approved." 

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says his focus will be seeing two-way, all-day GO trains between Kitchener and Toronto's Union Station.

"That's so important from an economic development," he said of having GO trains not only go to Toronto, but come to Waterloo region in the mornings.

More funding from gas tax fund

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities called on federal parties to do more to support municipalities, including doubling the gas tax fund, money which is provided twice a year to provinces and territories by the federal government, which is then given to municpalities for infrastructure projects.

Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky says they want to see more funding from the federal government to help "build our own community."

That includes "important things like affordable housing, funding for libraries and recreation centres, things that really build the quality of life in our communities."

In the 2019 federal budget, the gas tax fund transfer was doubled to $2.2 billion for one transfer and Jaworsky says that funding helped the city pay for a new east side library and for a new older adult recreation centre.

Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak says he wants to see the next federal government maintain infrastructure commitments.
The township wants to build a new arena and Nowak says it would be "devastating" to the community if it doesn't happen.

"We've put an awful lot of work in this and we've got the entire community excited about it," he said, noting it will require provincial funding. An application needs to be submitted in early November.

The township has two arenas, but both need renovations and one is 42 years old and reaching the end of its expected lifespan.

"We have to be ready to build next year so we have been working, our staff have been working tirelessly over the last six month or so," he said.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, who also chairs the Large Urban Mayors' Caucus of Ontario, said his city has benefitted from federal funding, including the gas tax, but municipalities can always use more federal funding for transit, housing and green infrastructure.

Opioid crisis 'not really on the radar'

But Guthrie says another major issue impacting Guelph, as well as Waterloo region, was largely ignored in this federal election.

The opioid crisis was "not really on the radar" of politicians in this election and he says the media also didn't raise it as an issue.

"So much more could be done," Guthrie said. "So I would hope that you know whoever is the successful winner would be looking to make that a priority."

Vrbanovic said the city could use more funding for affordable housing, which could help people impacted by the opioid crisis and mental health issues.

"That's so necessary for us to be able to deal with some of our high-need homeless population that's struggling with addiction and mental health issues," he said.

Good relationships matter

North Dumfries Mayor Sue Foxton says she's enjoyed a good working relationship with Cambridge MP Bryan May, who was re-elected on Monday.

She says she's met with May and current MPP for the area Belinda Karahalios every few months to discuss issues impacting the township.

"They know it down cold so that when they're fighting the fight for me in Ottawa or Queen's Park they know the issue, they know how to deal with them, they know all the answers," she said.

"I would hope that continues so that we can have a good rapport so that we can best serve our constituents together because it is a partnership."

North Dumfries is unique in the region and much of Ontario because of the aggregate production seen in the township, Foxton said. Local representatives have to understand the impact the industry has on the people who live there, she said.

"They have to understand the impact on our residents, and dust, noise and impacts on the roads," she said, adding it can also impact the local water supply if the water table is affected.

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