Candidate - Regional Chair
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I am the son of immigrant parents. My mother is from Argentina, and my father is of French and Arabic descent. I am proud of my diverse heritage and the core values that were instilled in me at a young age by my parents and grandparents, as well as my life experiences, all of which shaped who I have become today.
Born in Montréal, I moved with my family to Ajax at age 2. Although I have lived in different areas of the region since then, I am proud to have called Durham Region my home I first arrived in Ajax.
My mother worked as a nurse at Lakeridge Health for several years, until an underlying medical condition forced her early retirement. My brother is working towards a Masters in Counselling Psychology, and my sister is employed as an Early Childhood Educator in the Durham District School Board.
I graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours B.A. in Sociology, which has led to a rewarding career as a Community Outreach Worker. I also went on to earn my Social Service Worker diploma from Durham College. For the past several years, I have worked as a crisis worker at a social service agency within the Durham Region.
I have been an active community volunteer, and have been involved in several not-for-profit organizations. I have volunteered at Salvation Army locations in Ajax, Oshawa, and Bowmanville, and volunteered at many food bank drives. These opportunities have helped transform my perspective on life, and the true power of helping those who are less fortunate. It has given me insight into the very real struggles that so many people are facing across Durham Region. I have also been a mentor with Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the past 5 years, and was a volunteer with the Durham Children's Aid Society for 8 years.
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I am running to make Durham Region a better place for everyone. Where we all work together collaboratively to re-establish Durham as the place to be; the best place to live, work, and play. I have a clear vision for the future of Durham, and I am excited to share it with you.
I have developed 9 key focus areas that I will prioritize in my first term as Regional Chair. These are briefly summarized below. I invite you to check out my full, comprehensive list of priorities that is available on my website. I also welcome anyone to reach out to me if they have any questions.
An overview of my priorities are outlined below.
1. Addressing Durham's Housing Crisis
Durham has a housing crisis, and this crisis will only continue to worsen unless bold, forward-looking action is taken. We need to have a plan and a long-term vision to meaningfully handle this crisis. Many politicians will claim that they plan to build more houses, but they often lack clarity on how they plan to do this - and what types of homes they plan on building.
We need affordable housing. Homes that young families can buy, homes that younger adults can realistically see a path to home ownership. At the same time, we also need to meaningfully address the homeless crisis. This will be done by actually addressing the underlying systemic issues and causes that lead to poverty and homelessness.
Some of the key highlights of my housing plan include:
- Plan future housing developments sensibly and with a long-term plan.
- Consider options for higher density residences along transit corridors to stop the sprawl of large single family homes that are unaffordable for many.
- Explore the existing infrastructure to support future homes being built, rather than quickly approving housing developments.
- Meaningfully tackle the homeless crisis by addressing and working towards solving the underlying systemic issues of homelessness.
- Explore options for the construction of region-owned affordable student residences for post-secondary students.
- Work towards establishing a "RentSafe" program across Durham, similar to the "DineSafe" program. This will help prospective tenants know which rental units are safe, and encourage landlords to make necessary repairs.
2. Advancing Meaningful Reconciliation
Here's the truth: Durham Region occupies and benefits from the land that belongs to Indigenous peoples. We are settlers on their land - the land that was unjustly stolen from them.
It is past time for Durham to take serious efforts towards advancing meaningful reconciliation efforts. Empty platitudes are meaningless. As Regional Chair, working towards reconciliation will be a key priority for me. I want to ensure that Indigenous peoples have a voice and are included in all of the decision-making processes - from housing to homeless to the environment, and everything in between.
Some of the key ways I plan on working towards reconciliation include:
- Leading by example and acknowledge that I am on my own learning journey.
- Creating an Indigenous Advisory Circle, developed in equal partnership with local Indigenous groups.
- Increasing and encouraging Indigenous cultural awareness training for all region staff.
- Encourage all municipalities in Durham to remove the Change of Name fee, to address the Call to Action #17.
3. Ensuring Accountability, Integrity, and Transparency
Think about how often you hear from your politicians at any level - federal, provincial, municipal. Odds are you only hear from them about every 4 years, normally whenever they want your money and/or your vote. Otherwise, they seldom appear in the community and you rarely hear from them.
I want to change the way we do municipal politics in Durham. Residents deserve a Durham Regional Council that is accountable to THEM and their best interests, not those of private developers. I will improve accountability and transparency at the municipal level.
Here's some of the ways I will seek to do that:
- Implementing "Ward Reports", where each member of Regional Council will be asked to share updates, events and matters of interest, and/or concerns directly from their community at each council meeting.
- Introducing a comprehensive Code of Conduct for all Durham Region Council meetings, and all Regional Commitee meetings. This will include a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment, abusive language, or otherwise disrespectful behaviour.
- Supporting the creation of a Lobbyist Registry for the Region of Durham.
- Holding town halls in each municipality at least twice per year.
4. Getting Durham Moving
Durham is a rapidly growing community, and that comes with growing concerns about on our streets and sidewalks. As we seek to become more environmentally-conscious, we need to work proactively to ensure that our public transit system is actually working for those who use it. With the increase of vehicles on the road, we also need to think boldly and creatively on how to make sure our streets are safe.
Here's some of my plans on how to get Durham moving:
- Advocate for the expansion of the GO Train to Bowmanville, and making frequent checks on the project's status.
- Develop a clear, coherent and accessible Durham Region Transit schedule and map. Transit users deserve a bus system that is predictable, and arrives on time.
- Work towards removing transit fares for youth under 18, and for older adults 60 and older.
- Invest and expand in increased accessible public transit options.
- Start a pilot project of installing speed cameras near elementary schools and then secondary schools, to further ensure student safety and reduce dangerous, reckless driving in these areas.
5. Making Durham the Best Place to Live
I might be biased, but I think Durham is an excellent place to live. As Regional Chair, I want to harness the untapped potential of our communities and make Durham the best place to live in Ontario and a place where people want to come visit.
I want to make the Durham the best place to live by:
- Being a consistently strong advocate for Durham's healthcare and paramedic workers. This includes immediately addressing the urgent Code Zero situations.
- Developing a plan to build a hospital to service the Township of Brock and surrounding areas.
- Support the development of a Bowmanville waterfront and the revitalization of the Port of Whitby.
- Enhance and support Durham's bustling arts and culture sector. I will support the development of a Performing Arts Centre to be located in downtown Pickering.
- Actively work towards creating more usable greenspace and public areas for everyone to enjoy.
- Protect and preserve local heritage sites that serve as reminders of Durham's rich heritage. This includes Camp 30 in Bowmanville and the Columbus Heritage House in Oshawa.
6. Protecting the Environment
Durham Region is a great place to live and raise our families. All across the region, we have such beautiful green space and farmland. This quality green space positively shapes the quality of life for all of us who call Durham home. To make sure that we can continue to have this beautiful green space, we must take bold steps to protect our region's biodiversity.
Make no mistake, the impacts of climate change are very real and very immediate. To address this crisis, we must all work together to mitigate the impacts of climate change and adverse weather events that impact us across the Durham Region.
Some of my goals to protect the environment include:
- Work to repeal the 2022 BILD proposal that was approved by Regional Council. We need to protect the environment and our green lands, and we cannot do that by siding with private developer
- Protect Carruthers Creek from developers
- Ensure all Region-owned vehicles are eco-friendly by 2026.
- Expand the availability of electric vehicle charging stations throughout Durham.
- Partner with local Indigenous communities, to ensure decisions made on the environment are aligned with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis values.
7. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Populations
We need to protect those who belong to our most vulnerable populations in Durham. There are far too many in Durham who are struggling, for one reason or another. I believe in our collective strength and resilience and that we can work together to protect and support those who need it most.
- Advocate for improved quality of life in long-term care homes and senior residences
- Support the calls for an Autism Alert system
- Request a full, comprehensive review on police use of force and make the results publicly available and discussed at public open forums.
- Establish a Durham Police advisory board, which will function as a sub-committee of the Durham Police Services Board. This will serve as an additional oversight of the Durham Police, and will be comprised of local community residents.
- Establish a Regional Chair's 2SLGBTQI+ Advisory Committee to amplify their voices and help resolve the challenges they are experiencing.
8. Respecting Taxpayer Dollars
Let's be honest. I would love to be able to tell you that we won't raise your taxes. The simple truth is that I cannot promise you that. Many candidates promise to "lower your taxes" or "not raise your taxes". At the end of the day, these campaign promises almost never come to fruition.
I won't lie to you and tell you that we won't raise taxes. I can't make that bold promise because I know we might not be able to keep it. That's the reality.
I would love to lower taxes so that we all have less to pay. I will be fiscally responsible with your taxpayer dollars. This includes:
- Budget to spend within our means.
- Treat all communities across Durham fairly to ensure equitable access of services.
- Carefully review all expenditures of the Durham Region Council, including all department budgets, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being maximized
- Meaningfully investigate the water and sewage pipe ownership issues that was quietly approved by Regional Council, with ownership being suddenly transferred to residents.
9. Supporting Durham's Economy
Durham's economy took a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to urgently work towards rebuilding and supporting Durham's economy. This means looking towards creative solutions to attract jobs to Durham, support small locally-owned businesses, and stimulate Durham's economy.
Explore ways to reduce wasteful bureaucratic processes that discourage local residents from opening up their own small businesses.
Some of the highlights of my plan for supporting Durham's economy include:
- Explore ways to reduce wasteful burueaucratic processes that discourage local residents from opening up their own small businesses.
- Establish a scholarship for local students attending a local post-secondary institution.
- Work with Durham College and Ontario Tech University to diversify Durham's job market and ensure good jobs are available for the highly skilled students graduating from these post-secondary institutions
- Stimulate tourism through meaningful, strategic initiatives
- Stimulate and support our local food and agricultural economies.
- Work strategically to find ways to encourage and incentivize local childcare centres to register for the $10 a day childcare program.
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