Failed response to opioid crisis, lack of safety prompted former mayor to run for regional council

“The region forecasting a 6.8 percent increase in property taxes on top of inflation, gas prices and food prices is totally unacceptable,” said Doug Craig, candidate for regional council

Doug Craig

Occupation: retired teacher

How long have you lived in the Cambridge/Waterloo area?

I have lived in Cambridge for 48 years.

Why are you running in this election?

I’m running in this election because I’m concerned about the lack of safety that people feel in our neighborhoods, on our streets, and in our inner cities. There was a collapse of the regional government to adequately respond to the crisis we are now witnessing in the homeless and addicted population. We have over 1,100 homeless people in the area and 400 living on our streets and in our parks. The proliferation of camps is unacceptable and
must be stopped, the alternative is transitional housing.

According to the region’s own statistics, there are 2,000 addicts injecting drugs in the Waterloo area every day. According to the Coroner’s Office, 158 people died from drug overdoses last year. This is a very sobering admission of the failure of the region’s drug strategy.

Last but not least, the region is forecasting a 6.8 percent hike in property taxes, which on top of inflation, gas prices and food prices is totally unacceptable and needs to be cut. There are also threats of cuts to some regional programs due to reduced provincial funding, which will be announced in the spring. Of course, this will also weigh on the regional budget, which directly affects homeowners.

What qualifies you to represent the city on the regional council?

For 35 years I have held an elected position in various civil functions as mayor, regional councilor, hydroelectric power commissioner and municipal councillor. I have extensive operational knowledge of local government and have worked with various provincial and federal partners over these 35 years in Cambridge and the region to secure funding and support for various programs and projects. Examples of such funding include the Delta flyover, which used to cause 24 daily delays, funding for the Drayton Theater and funding for Lang’s Health Center in Preston.

I have served on various regional and city committees and been involved in overseas trade relations, by invitation, with the Office of the Prime Minister to expand Toyota’s involvement in Ontario, and with the Office of the Regional Chairman in business trips to the United States and with various trade delegations to Europe.

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During my tenures as Mayor and Regional Councilor, I have served as Regional Councilor for 27 years, which has given me a complete view of regional government and its relationships with the cities in the region and the higher levels of government.

Why should people vote for you?

I would ask people to vote for me simply because I am able to see community needs and get things done.

During my service in the community, I readily responded to concerns from organizations and residents on a variety of issues. One of the acute needs was the funding of non-profit groups that were constantly looking for funding for their organizations due to constant shortages. I assisted them during the city’s budgeting process and also hosted fundraisers for up to 14 different groups over the years with events like Mayor’s Movie Night.

I have worked tirelessly to support the arts community in Cambridge by founding the Drayton Theater and initiating the Cambridge Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts and Christmas.

During my tenure, I have participated in numerous events, festivals and parades hosted by members of our ethnic communities to demonstrate my strong belief in diversity and inclusivity in our community.

The new City Hall, the renewal of the Hespeler and Preston Libraries and School of Architecture, the pedestrian bridge were all a partial list of my commitment to a more livable and vibrant community. Accompanying these milestones was the promise I made to heritage, from renovating the interior of the old town hall, to extensive work on the Fire Museum, to the complete renovation and reuse of the Alte Post.

What do you think are the main issues faced by Cambridge/Waterloo area residents more broadly?

Many problems concern the residents today. The most immediate is affordability. Inflation, gas and food prices affect all households. Add to this the projected 6.8 percent increase in property taxes in the region and the threat of cuts in state funding for programs in the social sector, which will have a serious impact on the region’s budget.

This will negatively impact residents who are currently finding it difficult to balance their household accounts.

Neighborhood safety is a very important concern. The homelessness issue, addiction issues and mental health are impacting our communities, streets and inner cities. The camps as an example are a conscious acceptance of the decline in the way we treat people and a visual acknowledgment of the failure of shelters. The death of 158 people from drug overdoses is a sad reflection of a failed drug strategy.

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Although the regional government has a role to play in dealing with this crisis, its options are limited by legislation and finances, and the realization that property taxes cannot cover such expenses.

The new regional council must take three actions in the first 90 days to address these concerns.

(1) Request an immediate, preliminary budget review so Council members can begin the process of reviewing opportunities to cut and exceed the projected 6.8% increase
alerted to possible cuts in the province.

(2) Call for a general, comprehensive review of current numbers of homeless, addicts, and mental illnesses to understand the costs of transitional housing, better programs for addicts, and the rising prevalence of mental illness in the Region.

(3) Request the Regional Council to host a series of meetings of all MPPs and MPs in the region to bring together all levels of government to work continuously on these grave issues in the next term.

Given that the federal and provincial governments receive 91% of all taxes collected in Canada, they must begin to use their funding and legislative powers to take responsibility for this crisis now.

What is the most important thing you would like to see changed at a regional level to have a positive impact on Cambridge?

There is and always has been an imbalance of votes in the Waterloo region. This has come about because Kitchener-Waterloo controls half the votes in the council. The four rural communities, which together have less than half the population of Cambridge, have four votes at the table. The City of Cambridge only has three, which puts it at a distinct disadvantage compared to the rest of the voting members. This needs to be checked.

Nor has the election of regional councils separate from the local council shown a better awareness of how the public thinks about who is responsible for which services. In most other regions, the dual directorate system is in place, with regional councils also sitting in local councils, to improve both communication between the two levels of government and public awareness of the responsibilities of different services.

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Which services need to be improved in the region?

Cambridge’s lack of rapid transit services must be given priority. This coming term is to see visible progress in GO train service to Cambridge by 2026, an actual provincial commitment to the start of the LRT to Cambridge, and a rapid acceleration of the Cambridge bypass to remove truck traffic from Hespeler Road and from our inner cities.

Is Cambridge/Waterloo region growing too fast/just the right amount or not fast enough?

At this time, the Waterloo region is considered one of Canada’s fastest growing economies. Of course, this is accompanied by the expanding labor market and the abundance of new companies. However, there are negative aspects like the cost of home that affect everyone, especially a new generation of homebuyers and people looking to rent. The increase in traffic is also beginning to represent congestion. It is growing at a pace that is just right with the attendant benefits of that growth, but with increasing demands on social services.

What can be done about rising housing costs?

The rising cost of housing is driven by many factors that are beyond the control of local councils. Inflation, building material pricing, easy money and low mortgage rates all affect the final price of a home.

Cities can expedite development applications and ensure there is an appropriate balance between affordable housing, second home units and multi-family housing proposals, which will help in many cases.

How do we make the Waterloo/Cambridge region an even better place to live?

We need to recognize that with growth comes important issues that need to be addressed. Stress on our city streets due to increased traffic, homelessness and addiction problems as well as rising housing costs require new solutions. These approaches require the collaboration of all levels of government to solve the problems we now face across the regional community. Public announcements of handouts from the upper echelons of government are not enough to solve our major problems. In other words, we need to return to “good government” where everyone at all levels of government continuously participates in building a stronger and more dynamic region over the next four years.

To learn more about Doug, visit the following links:

Campaign phone: 519.222.9451
Email: [email protected]

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