See all the answers to the questions.
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:
Jan learned that 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.