Woolwich Township council candidates on their vision for future of community
Candidate issues include Elmira's core, need for housing and addressing climate change
In Woolwich Township there is a race for mayor and three council seats in Monday's municipal election.
The municipal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 24. CBC Kitchener-Waterloo asked all candidates to answer a survey that listed their top three reasons for running. The responses are in alphabetical order by last name.
There are two people running for mayor:
- Patrick Merlihan.
- Sandy Shantz (incumbent).
Patrick Merlihan says his top three reasons for running for mayor:
- Bring previous council experience to the job.
- Develop a real strategy to plan for the township's future.
- Improve working relationship with Region of Waterloo.
Merlihan is a current councillor and says in his eight years on council, he's learned how local government works and has developed relationships across the township.
"From my experiences in the position, listening to residents, and working through difficult situations, I see how local government can do a better job at serving residents," he said.
"That starts with leadership and developing a council and staff strategy that excels at serving constituents. A brand-new council that is trained and supported in developing their skills will benefit all residents now and for the future."
He says "strategic planning is not strategy; it is a to-do list" and he wants to develop a plan to move the township forward by listening to people in the various communities who may not feel like they're being heard.
"Each community in Woolwich is unique and serves different purposes for the people living there," he said.
"As we welcome more people and industry, we also welcome more traffic and more needs for services. I want to start the conversation and develop a plan to re-connect our relationships across the township."
Waterloo region has a two-tier government and "none of the municipalities have a good working relationship with the region and that needs to change."
He said the township and region are "more often at odds" over traffic and road reconstruction projects. "The cookie-cutter approach and region-wide lens taken when working within the townships may work in the cities, but often is at odds with life in the townships," he said.
Sandy Shantz says her top three reasons for seeking re-election are:
- Leading the township through COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
- Work with local agencies and township staff to provide more social services.
- Address climate change at a local level.
Shantz says the pandemic "derailed our objectives and threatened to divide our community, and now we are moving into a time of unprecedented growth."
The township is expected to grow and that means more social services and housing will be needed.
"Our vision for the future needs to embrace our history and our values into a careful blend of urban and rural," she said.
"It is critical that we continue to bring together and work with our developers, philanthropists and social services to support those in need. We have to understand the connection between all types of housing in the continuum in order to ensure we have adequate housing for all our residents."
Shantz says the environmental crisis "has been clear for very many years" and the township must do more to address that and "be a leader in creating a cleaner community."
A panel discussion with both mayoral candidates can be seen here.
There are four candidates in Ward 1. The two receiving the most votes will be elected. There is no incumbent in this race as Coun. Scott McMillan is not seeking re-election and Coun. Patrick Merlihan is running for mayor.
The candidates are:
- Cheryle Baker.
- Evan Burgess.
- Nathan Cadeau.
- Dan Holt.
Cheryle Baker says her top three reasons for running in this election are:
- To be of service.
- To listen.
- "Building our future together."
Baker says she loves creating and building supportive ideas that unify people. She says she is "Indigenous, Hungarian, a grandmother, a caregiver" and she's worked to promote Elmira since 1999.
"I'm about transparency, trustworthy, investing in people, plus service, building, creating opportunities, helping people to grow better future," Baker said.
"I love seeing smiles on peoples faces when they accomplish something important in their lives. It's why we should help others accomplish goals," she said.
Evan Burgess says his top three reasons for running in this election are:
- Wants to contribute to positive growth.
- Work to bring down cost of housing and increase supply.
- Ensure township is transparent and fiscally responsible.
Burgess says he'd like to be involved in the implementation of the Elmira core revitalization project and talk to residents about how to achieve the best design.
"I'd like to advocate to the regional council for speeding up the timeline for the Elmira bypass, as there's often heavy traffic on the in-town roads," he said.
With rising costs, he said more affordable housing and living options for seniors and those who rent are needed.
"I want to ensure the township is transparent in its spending and is fiscally responsible, keeping the cost of governance to a minimum and lowering the financial burden on residents," Burgess said.
Nathan Cadeau says his top three reasons for running in this election are:
- Bring knowledge and skills to build on Woolwich's foundations of care, concern and community.
- Wants to operationalize the downtown core revitalization study.
- Would like to see more attention paid to Elmira's greenspace.
Cadeau says being a voice for residents means appreciating the diverse lived experiences of people.
"Not only must we all engage in this learning, but there needs to be a decisive and yet humble decision for such diversity learning for those holding positions of authority in our community. Community leaders ought to be held to a higher standard because they represent all our community members," he said.
He says through deliberate planning, Elmira's downtown core "can more intimately reflect our community" and he wants to engage people to hear what they want the downtown to become.
"I would be disingenuous to give you a list of promises that I'd make happen once elected as it relates to the downtown core. Much of these discussions are also hinged to fiscal responsibility," he said.
"However, what I envision is a vibrant, modest space of which we can all be proud. A space that celebrates Elmira's unique heritage. A space where we want to spend time. A space that brings people together and where all are welcomed. I want to help our businesses there to grow and thrive."
Cadeau says council needs to discuss the tree canopy in Elmira and parks.
"All the while, I believe we need to keep pushing for the decontamination of Elmira's aquifer. While greenspace is important, water is crucial," he said.
Dan Holt says his top three reasons for running in this election are:
- Be part of the solution to move the township forward.
- See more ideas like the Elmira core urban design project.
- Help people.
Holt says he wants "to be a part of the solutions and not just complain without the ability to affect changes."
"We are a more diverse community than some people think and we want to be seen as inclusive and welcoming to all, not in spite of differences but because a diversity of experiences, identities and backgrounds leads to learning about the world and new ideas and ways of doing things, making a richer living experience for all of us," he said.
He said he plans to connect with people and get feedback from them on issues.
"I will keep asking how new initiatives or changes will make their lives better," he said.
There are two people running in Woolwich's Ward 2:
- Fred Redekop (incumbent).
- Eric Schwindt.
Fred Redekop says his top three reasons for seeking re-election are:
- Service to the community.
- To learn more post-COVID.
- To help manage the growth in the township.
He notes he has lived in Woolwich since 1991.
Eric Schwindt says his top three reasons for seeking re-election are:
- To have a more engaged council.
- Help guide township's growth.
- Build a sense of community and colaboration.
Schwindt says council should have more open debates and challenge ideas "with the goal of building better solutions."
"Our township is growing, and over the next number of years we need to do a better job of matching the growth, with the services and amenities we look for, along with the budgetary realities we face," he said.
He said many people feel isolated in the community and there's a need to build relationships between the communities of the township, the region, staff and council.
There are four candidates in Ward 3. The two receiving the most votes will be elected. Current Coun. Larry Shantz did not run again.
The candidates are:
- Paul Bolger.
- Bonnie Bryant.
- Kayla Grant.
- Murray Martin (incumbent).
Paul Bolger says his top three reasons for running in this election are:
- Advocate for accountability, fiscal responsibility and transparency.
- Ensure the township's mission statement corresponds to budgeted initiatives.
- Advocate for an advisory council to understand the current building and development process.
Bolger says he wants to see the township develop a transparent permit process that will result in "responsible development and growth in our tax base which in turn provides funds for services our constituents need."
Bolger says he's of Mennonite-Catholic heritage and says Woolwich is a "wonderfully diverse and inclusive" community.
"The Mennonite community are very industrious people and contribute in many ways to the fabric this community is known for — should seek input from their community on current initiatives that affect them. Acknowledge and honour our past but envision a future that includes everyone, including their community," he said.
Bonnie Bryant says the top three reasons she's running in this election are:
- Accountability and transparency.
- Protection of farmland, greenspace and water.
- Protection of heritage.
Kayla Grant says her top three reasons for running in this election are:
- Representation matters.
- Help guide township's growth.
- Improve communication with residents.
Grant says she was motivated to run in this election "after watching council members ignore and dismiss issues important to residents, especially those in Ward 3, which is unacceptable to me."
She said as the township is expected to see more people in the coming years, it's important to proactively plan for rapid growth.
"I feel it's important for council to evaluate our local amenities and infrastructure, and encourage growth as needed," she said.
She said it's important people know what council is working on and be given time to respond.
"Too many times we've seen council make decisions without adequate notice or consultation of all members of the community," Grant said.
"We've also seen council make positive changes to our community without letting residents know about the improvements they have access to. That lack of communication isn't serving anyone well and needs to be changed."
Murray Martin did not respond to CBC K-W's survey request.
People in Woolwich will be able to vote by internet, telephone or in-person.
Internet and telephone voting is now open and runs until 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24.
In-person voting will take place on voting day, Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at three locations:
- Woolwich Memorial Centre.
- Breslau Community Centre.
- St. Jacobs Fire Hall.
The township has also set up a voter help centre for people who have questions about how to vote online or by phone, to update or add their information on the voters' list or other election-related questions.