Waterloo Region Votes: Region chair candidates on why they're running

CBC K-W sent surveys to the candidates for regional chair for Waterloo Region. These are their responses to our questions.
The four candidates for regional chair are (from left): Jan d'Ailly, Jay Aissa, Karen Redman and Rob Deutschmann. (Campaign photos)

We asked candidates for regional chair to answer a survey where they all were presented with the same questions.

Here are their responses. Candidates were told they had a 300 word limit for answers. Some answers have been edited  for length.

There are four people running for regional chair: Jay AissaJan d'AillyRob Deutschmann and Karen Redman.​​

Jay Aissa


1. What is the number one issue you think Waterloo region is facing and how would you address it?

Throughout this municipal campaign and after I am elected regional chair, I will be particularly focused on three issues that, in my opinion, need special attention.

First and foremost, I believe that the Region of Waterloo needs a new hospital. I will encourage and support the construction of a new hospital, and at the same time support and enhance existing regional healthcare programs now delivered by our public health department.

Next, I am committed to supporting a rapid transit system that will benefit every community in the Region of Waterloo. I am committed to public consultations in all seven cities and townships within the region.  

A third important issue I would like to talk about is how we can help our region's first responders. First responders, be they our police force, our fire fighting department, our ambulance service, our EMTs, and anyone else who is involved in disaster control or relief, are the heroic public face of any community. I am committed to ensuring that our first responders are properly financed and staffed. And again, it is vital that all seven communities within our region are kept safe.

2. What issue is not being dealt with by the current council that you would tackle if elected?

I have become increasingly concerned over the past number of years that our duly elected officials at the Region of Waterloo have lost focus. Simply put, the Region of Waterloo can't keep spending the way it has for the past 10 years, and we have to put very strong conditions on regional spending plans as described in the recently released Region of Waterloo capital plan.

I believe that the current regional chair, regional council and senior regional staff have conducted themselves honourably in that they have done their best to make what they considered to be the right decisions. However, we cannot continue to ignore the consequences of some very poor decisions and the resulting accumulating debt.

The Region of Waterloo needs new leadership, and that leadership has to have a proven track record of social and financial success. This new leadership must be willing to listen to the citizens and voters of the Region of Waterloo, and this new leadership must be able to lead with passion, integrity and vision.

3. What do you anticipate will be the most difficult issue to address over the next four years?

It will be impossible to predict that one single issue will be the most difficult to deal with over the next four years.  As your new regional chair, I want to protect and enhance existing regional social support programs, such as affordable housing, public health, address the issues surrounding children and seniors programs, and address the issue of homelessness.

We must continue to build new roads and repair existing roads. And yes, in a fiscally responsible way, we need to properly plan and build a rapid transit system that will benefit every city and town in the Region of Waterloo.

4. How would you co-ordinate and communicate with the Ontario government about the needs of residents in Waterloo region?

First of all, let me tell you that I am person who believes in the power of positive thinking. I believe in community, and I believe in hope. I believe all people should be given the opportunity and the means to succeed in life.

I admire people who speak their mind and who are not afraid to express an opinion in a respectful manner, and I believe that if enough people raise their collective voices, together we can become a better community.

And that is why my slogan for this campaign is Your Voice Our Vision. I would deal with the Ontario provincial government with respect and open and honest communication. I believe in working in cooperation with our partners, and the Ontario government is certainly a partner.

5. What do people need to know about you?

Many of you may already know that I am the owner of Jay Fencing, a local Waterloo business that employs over 70 people. I have been in business now for 31 years, and I have been a resident of this community for the past 36 years.

This is my home. It is a source of pride for me that this is where my wife Natalie and I enjoy all the wonderful things this beautiful community provides, and this is where my five children have chosen to make their homes. Waterloo is truly one of the best places in Canada to work, live, and to raise our children.

If you feel as I do, please lend me your support on Monday, Oct. 22.  The only real promise I can make to you is that I will always do my best for you. I will protect your tax dollars, and I will consult with you on the issue of public transportation. And I will never hide information from you. I believe in open and transparent government, and I would welcome the opportunity to bring that openness and transparency back to the Region of Waterloo.\

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Jan d'Ailly


1. What is the number one issue you think Waterloo region is facing and how would you address it?

There is an immediate issue with the opioid crisis. In 2017 there were 71 deaths.

If we had this number of deaths at traffic roundabouts, we would mobilize resources to look at what is happening and we would fund solutions. I would say that cracks are starting to show in the social well-being of our community. We have seen in other cities and regions how this can spiral out of control.

We cannot allow this situation to escalate without a meaningful response that calls forward the knowledge and experience of the many agencies that touch the lives of everyone involved. I believe that there are opportunities to apply strategic approaches based on what has been learned in other jurisdictions.

What we know today is that there is a myriad of service providers and regional programs that serve our citizens in the areas of public health, addiction, harm reduction, mental health etc. each working in their own silos.  It's a fragmented approach.

I believe we must identify the services we have, the gaps between them and align these efforts to build a comprehensive eco-system that enables each of these services to work together in a truly effective way. This does not mean merging services. We benefit from a multitude of service providers who are geared toward serving a diversity of clientele. I would not want to lose the strength of these differences. They can, however, be stronger working together.

The region has done well with investments in economic and hard infrastructure. Let's turn our attention to investment in social infrastructure and be strategic in ensuring that we take care of the well-being of all of our citizens, and that no-one gets left behind.

How we deal with our most challenging problems defines who we are as a community.

2. What issue is not being dealt with by the current council that you would tackle if elected?

The region needs to look at the current governance model to ensure the most efficient allocation of roles and responsibilities between the Region, the cities and the townships.

Overall, the current structure is fairly effective, however, there are certainly areas where it is not working as well as it could. We need to identify those problem areas, investigate alternative solutions and determine the best models for how we function in today's environment. There are opportunities to improve the effectiveness, nimbleness and swiftness of decision-making by reviewing where we have unnecessary encumbrances and overlaps in our current governance.

The region has taken initiative to address some of these issues in particular areas (e.g. the Waterloo Economic Development Corporation, and with Tourism) but I believe that a more comprehensive review is required and would result in overall improved responsiveness.

The second part of this review is looking for operational efficiencies and avoiding duplication in some of the overlapping services. I propose forming a joint initiatives task force to review and recommend areas of cooperation between the region, the cities and the townships. This approach was effective when it was implemented between the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo during my time on council.

3. What do you anticipate will be the most difficult issue to address over the next four years?

I think that issue will be affordable housing.  

The growing need for affordable housing is created by the disconnect between earning capacity and housing costs.  A rapidly increasing housing market benefits people who own a house but it is punishing for those with lower incomes.  In a well-balanced economy our earning capacity should relate directly to the cost of housing, with minimal requirement for subsidized units or other interventions.

Economic approaches include, on the one hand, looking at various means of encouraging the supply of affordable housing.  A model that has been successful requires developers to provide 15% affordable units in new developments in exchange for increased building density to offset their costs.  Another approach includes providing incentives to create secondary units in homes in exchange for below market rents. These models all have their challenges. Other models include not-for-profit housing developments, subsidized units and cooperative housing structures.  These typically depend on government support.

On the other hand, solutions include addressing low incomes and reducing the demand.  This can include providing quality employment, living wages and reduced taxation. It can also include direct subsidies or support to individuals.

I am identifying this as the most difficult issue because our current economic environment is widening the income gap making long-term sustainable solutions very challenging and costly.

4. How would you co-ordinate and communicate with the Ontario government about the needs of residents in Waterloo region?  

The region needs to be current and fully cognizant of provincial policies and priorities and must have a mechanism to raise issues at the provincial level to ensure that local needs are being heard and understood.  While there are number of associations to facilitate addressing issues between municipalities and their provincial and federal counterparts (for example, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario) the Region also needs to ensure that it has its own standing set of interface points.  This needs to happen at both the staff level and at the political level. We need to maintain leadership positions at FCM and AMO.

A regular meeting cycle between the region's representatives and the provincial and federal counterparts must be established. This will ensure that issues are well documented and tracked to resolution. There is likely sufficient need that a liaison will need to be identified to ensure consistent and regular communication on unfolding issues.

5. What do people need to know about you?

Jan is a successful international business executive with expertise in strategic planning and business development in the industrial products and high-tech start-up sectors.

Jan has served two terms as a City of Waterloo councillor and as a member on many boards and committees with many accomplishments including:

Leadership to bring financial stability back to the city in the wake of the RIM Park financing debacle

Leadership in the establishment of the Laurel Creek Headwaters Environmentally Sensitive Landscape (ESL) that protects the Waterloo Moraine

Leadership for arts funding and ensuring a key cultural institution moved forward with a financially sound and sustainable plan

Leadership in turning Waterloo's recreational trails into an active transportation trail network

Jan was born to Dutch immigrants and has lived and worked outside Canada including Europe, Mexico, South Africa, Australia and Taiwan where he studied Mandarin Chinese.

Jan learned we need to pay attention to a community's values and diversity if we are to create a region that cares about the health and prosperity of its people, that feeds the spirit and that protects the earth that we call home.

Jan is known for showing leadership on difficult issues, for engaging all perspectives and working with others to come up with solutions that go to the heart of the problem.

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Robert Deutschmann


1. What is the number one issue you think Waterloo region is facing and how would you address it?

Affordable housing is the number one issue.  Along with that are a number of other important issues including resolving the location for safe consumption sites, enhancing addiction and mental health services and continuing to build our police services and emergency medical services.

I believe that affordable housing requires a more organized effort that needs to be co-ordinated at the regional level. We need to bring together the efforts of various community organizations, social agencies, local municipal governments and any other non-governmental agencies and groups that are working to help resolve the affordable housing crisis.

Within this framework we also need to bring in the private sector, including builders and developers, to come up with an organized plan for moving forward. The goal is to create as many affordable houses as quickly as we can cut through the red tape and bringing together public and private resources to achieve the single goal of expanding the affordable housing network faster than we have ever expanded supply in our history.

I would move for the appointment of an affordable housing co-ordinator whose sole purpose is to work with all groups within the region – both public and private - to expand the affordable housing supply in Waterloo region. Our success will be measured by the increase in affordable housing.

We need to improve the public and private relationship;  Seek out government funding; actively encourage the development of mixed use housing that includes affordable options; coordinate efforts with all levels of local government. If our regional model is to work then we have to show that we are capable of tackling this issue in a significant way, working together.

2. What issue is not being dealt with by the current council that you would tackle if elected?

There is no specific issue that I can identify as not being dealt with by the region in some way.  However, I believe that the region needs to make a stronger financial commitment to police services and emergency medical services.  We have consistently been one of the lowest funders per capita of these services.

As a growing region with an expanding population, and the challenges that come with being located along Highway 401, we require more officers and more EMS to properly service our ever growing and expanding population. Safety is one of the most important issues that a government provides to its population. I want to ensure that people in Waterloo region feel safer in their community at the end of my term as regional chair.

3. What do you anticipate will be the most difficult issue to address over the next four years?

Affordable housing and safe consumption sites will be the most difficult issues. They have been the most difficult issues for some time. These issues also tie in with dealing with the chronic homelessness, addictions and adequate police and EMS services.

The region needs to improve certain aspects of its communication regarding safe consumption sites.  Safe consumption sites in Kitchener and Cambridge are absolutely necessary. However we need to communicate the implementation strategy better to the community and we need to better address the issues and concerns of those that will be living and working within close proximity to a SCS.

I do not feel that enough is being done to address the issues of concern and outline a plan to show that the region is listening and that the region will work closely with the community while the SCS is in operation.

4. How would you co-ordinate and communicate with the Ontario government about the needs of residents in Waterloo region?

I would continue our lobby efforts as a unified region, working closely with the mayors of our seven municipalities.  

As the only elected official that is selected by the entire region, I believe the regional chair needs to step forward and be that voice for the region. That would include working with neighbouring municipalities and those across the province on shared and common interests and issues.

I would also advocate within municipal organizations. There is clearly strength in advocacy when the lobby effort is co-ordinated amongst a larger group of municipalities.

I would also reach out within the region to the private sector, social agencies and community advocates, to ensure that we develop a coordinated and strengthened strategy for trying to successfully communicate the needs of Waterloo region to the Ontario government.

5. What do people need to know about you?

I am a Waterloo region boy. I was born at K-W Hospital (now Grand River Hospital). I was raised in Waterloo; I have practiced law in Waterloo region with offices in Kitchener and Cambridge since 1995.  I have lived with my wife of 29 years in Ayr since 1993 and we raised three wonderful daughters there.

I was the former mayor of North Dumfries Township and a regional councillor from 2010 to 2014. I am a personal injury lawyer helping those that have been hurt in accidents or denied their disability benefits.

My experience as an advocate and my time in politics has provided me with the experience and knowledge necessary to take on the position and responsibilities of regional chair. Also, having been raised and now working in the city and now living in the township provides me with the unique understanding of both rural and urban issues within our regional framework.  

I understand the rural and urban perspectives which make our community, Waterloo region, unique.

I have outlined in detail my policy perspectives on a wide range of issues on my website I have also detailed policy positions on my Facebook page – Rob Deutschmann for chair.  I would recommend that you visit those sites for more information about my background, my experience and my vision for the future of Waterloo region.

We are a prosperous and growing region, but we need to ensure that as many people as possible are sharing in our prosperity.

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Karen Redman


1. What is the number one issue you think Waterloo region is facing and how would you address it?

The primary issue facing regional council in the next four years is managing the evolving relationship with the provincial government as well as the federal government. It is key to find common cause and ensure that our community has the necessary resources to implement that plans and priorities that address our quality of life.

Significantly, two-way, all-day GO transit; completion of phase two of the LRT to Cambridge, balancing supports to deal with the opioid crisis, mental health  supports and social housing. These are huge challenges that need legislative framework changes and funding that are currently out of the control of regional council but impact its ability to make wise investment.

The property tax system was not implemented to shoulder these costs. A new relationship is pivotal to investing in local priorities with sufficient funds.

2. What issue is not being dealt with by the current council that you would tackle if elected?

I believe there is room for improvement in the process for seeking public input on policy matters.

People live in communities that exist irrespective the construct of governance. During my time on regional council, I have noticed that area residents are keen to share their perspectives on the future of their community. And, of course, their contributions and ideas help council build better policy.

Even very expansive issues such as the opioid crisis, LRT or the masterplan for cycling, there is a local community perspective that needs to be heard earlier in the process of decision making.

3. What do you anticipate will be the most difficult issue to address over the next four years?

One of the most challenging areas to find an all-encompassing solution concerns supporting those who are most vulnerable. In particular, mental health concerns are the repeating theme that cut through a myriad of regional issues. It is a component in the need of supportive housing, drug addiction, social services, safe and secure communities. It is not a standalone issue but requires a comprehensive response

4. How would you co-ordinate and communicate with the Ontario government about the needs of residents in Waterloo region?

It has been my experience that face to face interaction with MPPs and bureaucrats is the most effective way to represent the priorities of the Waterloo region residents.

Always do your homework to identify those areas where Waterloo region's priorities intersect with the province's ambitions (stated and implied). There is no doubt that a strong Waterloo region benefits the province as a whole.

5. What do people need to know about you?

I have been steadfast in my two commitments since my first term in public office — I will be transparent on any decision that I make and I work hard to reflect the concerns of the people I represent.

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Sunday: meet the mayoral candidates for Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.