Tag Archives: municipal

Tomorrow is Election Day. Don’t Forget to Vote for Jane Mitchell

Tomorrow is Election Day. Finally it’s your turn. Don’t forget to vote. Remember, I work hard for you, I’m experienced and I am a leader. You can find my five priorities and pledges on this blog and go to www.janemitchell.ca for my experience. I pledge to continue working hard for you, doing my research and giving you straight talk about the issues. Together we can make Waterloo and Waterloo Region the best place to live, work and play.


Food Deserts and Food Swamps

Food Deserts (Not desserts!)

Imagine riding a bus for an hour to get to a supermarket to buy fresh fresh fruit and vegetables. This happens in the low income centers of a number of American cities and is called a food desert.  A few years ago, Waterloo Region Public Health and Foodlink tried out a pilot project that located temporary farmers’ markets in various neighbourhoods, many low income, throughout

Preston Towne Market

Preston Towne Market

Waterloo Region. The ones at St. Mary’s hospital and the Preston Towne Square come to mind. The pilots were not continued for various reasons, except for the market at Preston Towne Square which has grown in popularity over the years. It should be noted that supermarkets do exist in Preston, it is not a food desert.

Food Swamps (Includes desserts!)

Which leads to the interesting NEWPATH report on Diet and Food Environment Findings presented at Community Services yesterday. The Region participated in a project from three universities that analyzed 1,334 retail food establishments and 1,170 individuals from 690 households in Waterloo Region in 2009.

People kept two day food diaries and the researchers  looked at what kind of food establishments were near the individuals. The study participants had a range of income, walkability from their home and number of occupants. They reported their weight, height and waist circumference.

The study found that the availability of healthy versus unhealthy food influences our eating behaviors and and health outcomes. An extremely small proportion of residents in Waterloo Region eat a good diet, .3%. The percent for Canada is .5% so we are slightly worse. But everyone is truly bad! No wonder overweight and obesity is an epidemic.

The researchers found that the vegetables and fruit in Regional retail food establishments are of excellent quality and that Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, rather than gaps in access to healthy food (food desserts), have an overabundance of unhealthy food and beverages (food swamps). We are swamped with bad food and beverages.

Within one kilometre of study participants’homes:

There were five times as many convenience stores and fast food outlets as grocery stores and specialty stores.

There was over three times as much shelf space dedicated to energy dense snack food (chips and candy for instance) as compared to shelf space for vegetables and fruit. 

Convenience stores were on average 521 meters away, fast food outlets 582m and grocery stores 1001m away.

  Food stores with fruits and veggies close in price to junk food had less fat people living nearby. Those who shop at health and specialty stores were less impacted by price.

Food Deserts Versus Food Swamps

The study showed that in Waterloo Region, people do have access to healthy food and we do not have food deserts. However the results of the study suggest that exposure to unhealthy food is associated with poor diet. Also if healthy foods are priced the same or lower than unhealthy foods, they are likely to be purchased.  The current environment in the region is a food swamp, an overabundance of poor nutritional choices.

What can we do?

It is a strange thing to purchase medications to control obesity induced diseases then walk down an aisle filled with junk food and beverages to visit a cashier surrounded by chocolate bars for sale. Pharmacies gave up cigarettes, shouldn’t they also think about the selling of junk food? Parents across the region would thank our stores for removing junk food from the check out area.

Public Health will explore improving the affordability of healthy food and  beverages with such ideas as zoning by-laws, recreation centres, and healthy corner stores.

Temporary Food Markets

This brings me back to the temporary farmers’ markets. I asked the presenter if temporary food markets are  necessary since we don’t have food deserts, we have food swamps. She said that actually, they are still a good idea as long as the food is comparable in price to the junk food. Interestingly, this was one of the reasons given for a failure of the temporary food market pilots in low income areas.

The City of Waterloo has a Thursday evening market in Uptown that has become quite successful and of course bargains are to be had at the St. Jacob’s

St. Jacob's Market

St. Jacob’s Market still buzzing the Thursday after the Fire last year.

Market, Cambridge Market, Elmira Market, Kitchener Market and Preston Market (and how lucky we are to have these permanent farmers’ markets!) The City of Waterloo has just passed revised licensing by-laws and farmers’ markets are under flea markets with licenses valid at a particular location for 90 days on private property and 6 months on city property, and require public health approval. (Thanks Councillor Jeff Henry for this info)

The Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable is asking municipal candidates their opinion on zoning for temporary farmers’markets. The Roundtable wants broad zoning so the markets can pop up anywhere. Some candidates have privately told me they wonder if that is too broad. In any case, public meetings are coming up in the next year in Waterloo.

Temporary markets might help with locations for the strawberry trucks and corn sellers who park on the side of the road, sometimes causing traffic problems. Finally, after my questions in committee, Mary Ann Wasilka a citizen who was a delegation on another topic yesterday, sent me an interesting article about fruit and vegetable carts in New York city, basically pop-up vegetable stalls. They are for the poor in food deserts but they could be fun in the parking lots of our food swamps.

NEWPATH Research Project — Diet and Food Environment Findings. on page 24 of the Community Services Committee Agenda of August 12, 2014.

Food Spaces, Vibrant Places Campaign

Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable



Women’s Municipal Campaign School Poster

Women's Municipal Campaign School Poster

Women’s Municipal Campaign School, Waterloo Region

Why Can’t They Just Get Rid of Mayor Ford?

Toronto Council passed a motion this morning stopping Mayor Ford’s right to hire and fire the Heads of Council Committees and his Executive Committee and the Deputy Mayor.

I have to point out that in the rest of the province, councils do not have executive councils and the councillors not the mayor choose the heads of committees. An executive council often ends up making all the decisions and the other councillors are left out in the cold. As shown by Toronto, this leads to the left or the right controlling the council. In most of the rest of Ontario, including my council, councillors of all political stripes actually work together, not without some conflict, to do the best for their community. All across Ontario, a Mayor or Head of Council only has one vote. A Mayor rules by persuasion or speaks for the will of council in a non-partisan way.

I hate to say “I told you so” to the Minister of Municipal Affairs with whom I had a discussion about Toronto’s special powers for the Mayor a number of years ago. They were brought in during David Miller’s tenure and the government of the day liked David Miller. When making a law regarding the conduct of municipal governments or themselves, the province needs to remember this rule. Governments will change.

The worst thing the provincial government could do is either give councils the power to dismiss a Mayor or give themselves the power to dismiss a Mayor. A Mayor is elected by the people for four years. The case of Rob Ford is extraordinary and policy and laws should not be made as knee jerk reactions to the extraordinary.

I remember my years as a school trustee. The provincial government of the day took away the power of school boards to raise local taxes due to the excesses of some GTA boards. Our board had actually lowered taxes slightly right before the new rules came down.

I have listened to Mayors complain about their councils and councillors complain about their Mayor. I have known at least one Mayor who, because the councillors wanted “the other guy” as mayor, had to put up with his council  working against him all term. That mayor would have been tossed out by the council. A mayor not liked by the provincial government could be tossed out for political reasons, much like the province sometimes takes over school boards that won’t or can’t balance their budgets due to the lack of money provided by the province.

The Municipal Act says:

Generally, there is no process for removing a councillor (e.g. by a petition of electors or by the council) before the next election.

However, the office of a councillor may become vacant in a number of ways including by resignation, by being absent from meetings of council for three successive months without authorization, by disqualification (e.g. the councillor becomes a judge, ceases to be a resident, is serving a sentence of imprisonment in a penal or correctional institution or, is convicted of a corrupt practice under the Municipal Elections Act,1996 etc.).

A citizen already tried to remove Rob Ford from office for a breach of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, but lost. The Conflict of Interest Act is a problem because a conflict is not well defined and the penalty, removal from office, applies whether the breach is small or big. The cost of lawyers fees means many councillors will declare a conflict, such as in the case of our Light Rail Transit project, to avoid a nuisance suit. If the councillor has a lot of money, ignoring a conflict often leads to a dismissal in court anyway. Terrible piece of legislation.

It is important to remember that Mayor Ford’s excesses have not been proven in a court of law. Our law says that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It is wrong to try people in the court of public opinion. Holding up these principles against someone who is obviously so out of control, reminds me of defending censorship. Something disturbing must be defended to protect the right of the innocent in the future.

Democracy demands that the person the public voted in, should serve and when the public votes them out, they should leave. If you are a citizen of Toronto and don’t like what is going on,vote in the next election.  If you don’t, and most people don’t, you have only yourself to blame if Rob Ford gets back in.

Enough Land now for the Houses with Picket Fences

Due to the constraints of TV news, CTV couldn’t put all my comments in their report. Still a good piece this Sunday on the Region’s appeal of the OMB ruling on the Regional Official Plan and a new citizen website, Smartgrowthwaterlooregion.

CTV clip and article

Basically I was quoted as saying that we must preserve our farmland and that we want a range of housing choices, not everyone wants a house with a white picket fence. Which is true.
But people should also know that there is plenty of available land or greenfields for subdivisions in our Region right now. Our cities are not built out and won’t be for a long time. The 89 hectares are the additional land put aside for subdivision development, not the total amount of land available now. If you go to Huron Road or cross the new Fairway bridge, you will see housing springing up like crocuses. By the way, a hectare is about twice as big as an old-fashioned acre. There is also a lot of space in the Region for urban infill. The soon to close Schneider’s plant is 42 acres. Kitchener and Cambridge have a lot of infill opportunities. The infamous Westside lands in Waterloo are not yet built on.
Regional council worked on the Official Plan for 4 years with much citizen input.
As Ken Seiling said, the Ontario Municipal Board wants the equivalent of about 200 farms eaten up with subdivisions.
Here is a link to the Regional Official Plan http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalgovernment/regionalofficialplan.asp

and the OMB ruling

Click to access PL110080.Decision.pdf

P.S. Just because I say not everyone wants one,doesn’t mean I’m against houses with picket fences. Not everyone wants a dog either, but I love mine!
Actually, the person who was concerned doesn’t want houses with white picket fences to be considered urban sprawl. Point taken!

Knox Presbyterian Church and Democracy: on the Occasion of The One Year Anniversary of the New Church.

Greetings and congratulations from Chair Ken Seiling and Regional Council. Like Peter Braid, I would first like to talk about Caroline and Erb.  Although people, of course, do talk to me about the traffic, this intersection is iconic. There is commerce with Waterloo Square, politics with CIGI, the arts with the Clay and Glass and religion with Knox. We are always hearing about commerce and politics, it is so important to have religion on this corner.

Secondly, on behalf of the Region of Waterloo, I would like to thank Knox for letting us hold our public meetings here. Just last week, I listened to a speaker who was helping us as we move to urbanization, telling us about placemaking and making the Region comfortable for people.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited China on a personal visit. It is a great country but with 1.7 billion people, they must build a lot of LRT and subways. We passed by a hoarding and our guide told us that the last subway line was built in one year. One year. It is taking 12 years to put the shovel in the ground for our Light Rail Transit.

I thought it over. China does not have environmental assessments or public meetings. I was very interested in hearing that your church had lots of meetings deciding how and where to build the new church.  Some say the Region’s meetings are endless, some say we don’t have enough. In the end, it is decided and some people don’t get what they want and some do.

That’s democracy.

Which brings me to the famous public meeting in your church, the one where people were looking at the uptown alignment for the LRT.

The members of Knox said, ” We’ve just built this church and the LRT line is going right beside it.”

We said, “The LRT is electric, it’ll be quiet.”

The members said, “Oh, we don’t know.”

Then other people in Waterloo began to agree with you. The alignment should be changed. The Region changed the alignment to go along a preexisting rail line through the parking lot of Waterloo Town Square.

That’s democracy.

Thank you for your devotion to community and democracy. Congratulations on your first year.

Speech in Response to Removing Sensitive Re-charge Lands from being Part of the Countryside

My speech on Tuesday in response to Tom Galloway’s motion to not include the sensitive SW corner of Kitchener as part of the protected countryside.  The motion was defeated, 14 to 3, and so the land will remain agricultural. Tom, Mayor Zehr, and Jim Wideman voting in favour.

The following would have been removed from the motion for the final changes for the official plan

Request the Province to modify Maps 4 – Greenland Network and 6g – Other Source Water Protection Areas to designate the southwest corner of the City of Kitchener as Regional Recharge Areas as originally recommended to Regional Council on June 16, 2009
d) Request the Province to modify Map 7 – The Countryside to designate the southwest corner ofthe City of Kitchener as Protected Countryside as originally recommended to Regional Council on June 16, 2009;


Kitchener is leaking out onto our farmland and deflating our environmental plans.

The owners of the land in the SW corner have been led on a string, first for 12 months now proposed for 5 more years, that their land might be developed.

Many developers, consultants and land owners from all over the region have come before us asking to have their piece of land put back into the urban area. They have been turned down.

Just like Kitchener  council did for the SW corner, the previous council of the City of Waterloo opposed designating the NW corner of Waterloo, another sensitive water recharge area, as part of the Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes.  The Region designated the area anyway, which I agree was the right thing to do.

Why should Kitchener be treated  differently than the rest of the region?

It is time we drew a line in the sand around the urban area.


The ROP report on final changes and provincial response: http://bit.ly/abjUFG

ROP passed last year without SW corner included for one year for further consultation. http://www.region.waterloo.on.ca/web/region.nsf/DocID/CA5BC18540AE6A2185257555006D0304?OpenDocument

After we also passed the transportation master plan, I thanked staff for all their hard work. I reminded council once again, that when I voted for the Light Rapid Transit, it was because I had been assured that the ROP with the firm countryside line protecting our farmland and environmentally sensitive areas and putting limits on urban sprawl; and the transportation master plan with its emphasis on more transit everywhere and more cycling and pedestrian routes would be passed. I was now satisfied that those requirements had been fulfilled. Because without those other pieces, the LRT would certainly not work as a method of intensification.