The Chamber membership asked three questions of our candidates, details below.
2022 Mayoral Candidates
Incumbent:Bryan Paterson Skyler McArthur-O’Blenes Ivan Stolijkovic Tina Fraser
Question 1: Housing Availability and Affordability
Incumbent: Bryan Paterson- Expanding housing options is one of the key pillars of my campaign and I am proud to be a pro-housing mayor. Over the last 4 years the City has been able to double the amount of new housing built every year and we have made record investments in new affordable and supportive housing as well. If I am re-elected, I will work to create a new affordable housing fund, where a percentage of new revenue from growth is channelled directly to this fund. That means the more we grow and the more market housing we can build, the more funds we will have to provide affordable, subsidized housing to those who need it. I am also proposing a new regional approach to housing, where I will convene a council of mayors from Napanee to Gananoque to plan out housing growth across our region. The demand for housing in Kingston is going to be very high for the foreseeable future, and it’s critical we can build enough new housing to meet this demand and prevent further escalation in housing prices and rents.
Skyler McArthur-O’Blenes-"Firstly, I would like to mention that I believe these three areas of concern are strongly intertwined. A broad statement applying to all three – Kingston must strive further to make itself an economically viable place to live, both for newcomers to the area (attraction) and existing citizens (retention).
- In my opinion, housing availability and affordability is the biggest piece of the puzzle with many of the issues the Kingston community is facing; It is also a problem that is not unique to Kingston. Solving this problem cannot be done in one fell swoop by any elected government, instead it will be a joint effort of government(s) AND the community. Contrary to what some may believe, developing new high-rise buildings to raise housing supply alone will not solve this issue. Some synergistic strategies I have in mind to begin tackling this issue:
Modernizing zoning laws to allow more flexibility for densification (particularly in areas that are not heritage protected).
Incentivizing and enabling the community to make use of any of their own underutilized space to help alleviate supply shortage. This can be through avenues such as building out rental units in unused portions of their house/property.
Forming an inter-governmental consultation group with other similar municipalities to share strategies.
These proposed strategies are not the end-all-be-all for this issue -- as I continue educating myself on this issue via conversations with experts and community members, more strategies may come to light. It is important that those in governance don’t get too entrenched on certain strategies, because we need to be agile to solve such challenging issues.
Ivan Stolijkovic- I've lived as a tenant in Kingston for 20 years and I've spent most of those years actively trying to help other tenants navigate the very tough housing situation. In fact, this concern about people's housing situation is the main reason I want to become a Mayor of Kingston.
I've spent the first decade of our century mostly focusing on fighting back against the Provincial government's austerity regime that saw ODSP and OW rates frozen and rents going up. As President of the Kingston Coalition Against Poverty (KCAP), I organized protests and rallies and advised countless tenants and poor people on how to deal with their individual bad landlords or case workers who have through the 1990s transitioned from being helpers of the unemployed and unemployable to guardians of the gates of survival. I was myself on OW and cut off on a technicality in the middle of winter without having winter boots or a place to call a home. It was only my relative privilege - education, skills, marketing skills and relative sobriety - that pulled me through this difficult time. Many who were not as lucky as me, who didn't grow up in a stable home with loving parents and had the benefit of higher education, have fallen through the cracks, been kicked off the benefits, become homeless and, in many cases, died. KCAP has mainly tried to address the housing, hunger, addictions and homelessness crisis by pushing the provincial government to raise the rates of ODSP and OW and helping people access special programs and well-hidden funding sources that are legally available to those on government assistance programs. One of the tools we used to achieve these goals was organizing mass ‘special diet clinics’ whereby we signed ODSP/OW recipients to this special program on masse in order to help them access a few extra dollars to help them survive on. Money, we realized, is however not enough. Aside from all these programs and special funds not amounting to much, the cost of housing has skyrocketed and more than made up for any and all money we could help people access. The complex issues people face - disabilities, disease, mental health issues and addictions - most of them brought on by poverty - have ensured that money is not enough. People who don’t know how to manage money or have addictions end up hungry and homeless. This is why I’ve turned towards looking into how governments can provide services to people - services like housing, food and health-care to supplement their meager incomes.
In the last decade, I’ve turned my attention to the Municipal government as I realized that most of the housing development and policy is the purview of this level of government. It is at the Municipal level that decisions about what kind of housing is built and how it is maintained are made. It is, finally, the municipal government which decides whether or not social, public, rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing is built or not. Unfortunately, the answer in Kingston (and in most other municipalities) is a resounding no. In face of all evidence which points to the fact that aiding and abetting private interests in being in charge of housing solutions will and does lead to inflated rents and real estate prices and the rise in homelessness and housing precarity, our City has continued to bend over backwards to the wishes of Mayor’s campaign donors and fast-track their applications under the pretext that increases in all kinds of housing availability (which is a code word for ‘privately-owned and for-profit’) will make housing more affordable. This is simply not true and increasingly, in no small part due to my efforts as the General Secretary of Katarokwi Union of Tenants, it has become common knowledge. People are no longer fooled by Orwellian rhetoric whereby “affordable”, as used by municipal politicians, really means unaffordable (as it is literally defined as 80% of market rent by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), nor are they oblivious to the fact that the public servants, the Mayor first among them, are only looking out for the interest of large landlords and developers and that those interests are in fact diametrically opposed to those of the tenants.
The housing and homelessness crisis which, according to the current Mayor himself, is the most important issue for 9 out of 10 Kingstonians in this election, has been manufactured by all three levels of government's policies over the last 30 years, ever since they all decided to get out of the business of housing and leave it to 'the market'. 'The Market' is really a code word for private interests, for for-profit corporations, for capitalists. 'The market forces', of course, with all the help they could get from friendly politicians whom they are funding (just take a look at the list of Mayor Peterson's donors from 2018 and you'll see who's who of Kingston's real estate and development oligarchs), did their thing - they developed and capitalized on an incredible amount of housing, growing their monopolies into financialized real estate empires and gouging tenants as far as they could go. They've gotten obscenely wealthy, while the rents have gone up, property standards have come down and, given the lack of government-provided social housing, housing insecurity and homelessness have skyrocketed.
As a Mayor of Kingston, my first priority will be to house all our homeless people and then to clear out the social housing registry list. I will do this by immediately providing 500 social, public rent-geared-to-income housing units to house all our homeless and another 1500 within a year of taking office to house everyone currently on the waiting list. Beyond that I intend to bring government back into the housing business by expanding and democratizing the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation and turning into a corporation that fights for more social, public RGI housing and that is a partner with large developers and landlords in providing the types of housing (RGI) that people need in order not to have to spend their food and medicine money on housing.
I also plan to drastically expand the property standards department, open a public maintenance department and change the existing bylaws which allow landlords (both public and private) to neglect their units and which has led to the pest infestations of many of our housing stock and the ability of landlords to not have to address them. Neglectful bad landlords will be punished severely and their property will be expropriated. No one in Kingston will live with pests.
Tina Fraser - There are over 300 developments taking place at the moment, you can see here:
There is plenty of available housing being built, currently the issue is - High rental prices, Air BnB’s, and over- development. No one can afford the sky high prices, so they are catering to people from bigger cities rather than our own citizens. I will cap development (50% must be Kingstonian citizens-born here/native canadians), repurpose old schools, churches, and empty office buildings into affordable units, detox/rehab/recovery units, sober-living communities (spread throughout the city) and revitalize the current housing registry (people come here and buy a house then get an address and put their name on the local housing registry). The wrong people are getting the benefits.
Question 2: Available Workforce – Attraction and Retention of Talent
Incumbent: Bryan Paterson- One of the things I hear most from our small and medium size business owners right now is that it is a challenge to find staff - in every sector and in every area of the community. Helping to get the right people into the right jobs is a win for everyone – for workers and for businesses. But this requires a team effort across our community to develop the creative solutions that will help.
In the first 100 days of the new term, I will convene a community (action-based forum) that brings businesses, employment agencies, educational institutions and other stakeholders to the same table, to develop ideas that will expand and diversify our local workforce. The focus will be on concrete actions that we can implement as quickly as possible. As an example, we could develop new micro-credential training programs, a fast and lower cost way to get people the right skills for a vacant job.
We can partner with Queen’s and St. Lawrence College to create more pathways for students to locate jobs and careers here in Kingston. We can work with community groups to connect marginalized and underrepresented groups to local job opportunities. We can explore creative ways to develop shared search resources for small businesses to find and recruit new employees. By working together we can help both businesses and workers to succeed.
Skyler McArthur-O’Blenes- . In terms of workforce, I think the reality is that many people whose skills are developed in Kingston’s high-quality institutions, don’t see Kingston as a viable place to live long-term. From my conversations with post-secondary students, the overarching belief conveyed is that compared to larger cities nearby, the costs of housing are high relative to the perceived low availability of jobs and amenities. En masse, students feel that they would be better served going to larger population centres. We must change this perception and the underlying economic conditions of the talent’s if we want to begin building momentum towards retaining more of the talent that our educational institutions produce.
Realistically, Kingston cannot directly compete with larger cities like Toronto in terms of amenities, but that is totally OK. Not everyone wants the hectic lifestyle that comes with the bustling larger cities. Our edge is that we have a beautiful city that is accessibly located nearby major population centres. We have a great amount of amenities relative to our size, and the more laid-back lifestyle afforded here is not one that is possible in larger cities. We have a unique opportunity in the face of increasing flexibility of workplace location -- students can more easily than ever work remotely for a company based in a larger city and remain in Kingston to support our city’s economy and diversity. If the right structures are in place, these students who remain can use their talents and passion to build the city’s capacity through entrepreneurship and building the labour pool’s size and skill diversity.
Kingston has made steps towards changing this image, via investing in entrepreneurship and having social branding as an up-and-coming city for younger people to grow. However, I feel like there is still much work to be done. The data shows us that students are increasingly interested in flexibility in their working conditions for post-graduation life. We need to highlight, from very early on in the student’s academic careers, that Kingston is a viable post-school destination for them to grow. Awareness and improving connections between locals and students, as well as generally reducing the cost of living in Kingston, are all viable paths to attract and retain talent.
Ivan Stolijkovic- The main focus of the municipal government of Kingston should not be in just the quantity of jobs, but more specifically the quantity of safe, sustainable, and secure jobs that exist in Kingston. In the past several years in Kingston, Ontario, and Canada more broadly, we have seen a sharp reduction in unionized jobs, jobs that pay a livable wage, jobs with adequate benefits, and jobs that treat their employees with any measure of dignity or with any recognition of work-life balance.
With that being said, we must focus on low barrier, public-sector, unionized jobs. Through my platform’s goal of vastly expanding public services— including the creation and expansion of social housing, food programs, cleaning services for bugs and assisted housing clients, expanding the property standards department, and opening public daycare centres under the $10/day provincial program—not only will safe and stable jobs be created, but they will also service other working people unlike the current service/gig economy which disproportionally serves the rich.
Through building social rent-geared-to-income housing, many job opportunities will arise in the form of design, construction, and maintenance. This will have the twofold benefit of expanding the public-sector construction labour force (which will be unionized) as well as bringing in precarious maintenance/sanitization workers—working in the gig economy, on individual contracts or being paid under the table, completely out of the per-view of the city—into maintenance jobs (unionized) that will provide them protection and support that their previous work has not. In addition, by expanding the property standards department and re-hiring the property standards officers who were let go under the past administration, we will provide more safe unionized work, and will also better ensure that tenant complaints—which are rampant—are taken care of quicky and landlords are held accountable
By opening and expanding public day care centres, there will be both increased employment for education and child and youth workers, and there will be cheaper, safer options for parents who cannot currently afford childcare.
All of these goals will help to create, attract, and retain jobs, with the added benefit of supporting other members of the Kingston community by providing them more affordable public services which can be held accountable to proper standards.
Tina Fraser - There is a plethora of Kingstonians who are highly educated and qualified to work here but we cannot get a job in our respective field because of the gross misconduct in hiring practices. Most people in Municipal jobs, queens, slc, etc are brought in from their family and friends. We Kingstonians leave because we cannot get a decent job in our own city (I have an 80K education from SLC and never get any response for jobs I am well qualified for). I will cap it at 50%; must be Local or Native hires.
Question 3: Access to Primary Care – Physician Shortage
Incumbent: Bryan Paterson- Quality, accessible health care is vital to our quality of life here in Kingston, and there are important ways as a City we can collaborate with health care partners to improve local care of both our physical and mental health. First and foremost, good health care requires adequate funding from the province. The City cannot and should not have to fund health services using property tax dollars that are needed to repair roads and improve parks. However, what the City can do is facilitate creative ways to make existing dollars go further and promote innovative approaches that deliver better care.
For example, over the last few months we’ve been able to work with local physicians to attract a number of new family doctors, using a financial incentive program. As a City we can also partner with health care providers to promote new models of care like health care hubs in the community. We can help facilitate new spaces where health care professionals can work in teams and help more patients.
Skyler McArthur-O’Blenes- Access to primary healthcare is critical for any city, but especially a city which has a large population of older citizens who typically need more frequent contact with a primary care provider. We need to improve our investments in retaining the healthcare professionals that come through our educational institutions, making it so that the logical next step after graduation from a health care program in Kingston, is to practice in Kingston. Improving the quality of life for our healthcare providers' workplaces, we can improve their happiness, further encouraging them to stay. With more talent retained and work standards being strong, professional networks of health care providers can organically provide increases in attraction to the area. These are only broad strokes strategies and as my community listening continues, more strategies may develop.
Ivan Stolijkovic- As is the case with Kingston’s workforce in general, so it is with health-care workers. There is a large amount of qualified and educated health-care workers from all over the world driving Ubers and studying marketing at St. Lawrence College. There is no shortage of doctors or nurses.
What stands in the way of Kingstonians having access to doctors and health care workers is Ontario College of Physicians which, like a Medieval guild, intentionally restricts the amount of doctors who are allowed to acquire medical degrees and who are allowed to practice medicine in order to keep the incomes of the 'domestic' doctors high.
Furthermore, the problem is compounded by the provincially-regulated pay-scale and pay-structure which forces doctors, especially general practitioners to be businessmen first and foremost and which pins their business interests against the interests of their patients. Currently, general practitioners are underpaid relative to other doctors and forced into a business scheme whereby they charge per service and are thus encouraged to not treat their patients holistically or spend more than a minimum amount of time with them. All doctors should be government employees on a fixed salary.
What we can do as Municipal government is explore ways of resisting the provincially and federally set rules about how medicine is practised. We can build and run clinics which use a different model. We can try to attract medical professionals from other countries and work around the gatekeepers who care more about keeping Ontario doctors’ incomes high than the health and well-being of the population.
Much of the work that doctors do can and should be done by nurses and other health care professionals. Public clinics could be staffed by them and bring health care to the people that way.
We should also look into licencing or in other ways encouraging various non-traditional doctors (holistic doctors, traditional Chinese medicine doctors, indigenous healers) to help us. These medical professionals are currently denied their expertise by the provincial regulating bodies. That needs to change.
Kingston is a twin city with Cienfuegos, Cuba. Cuba is famous for having an official policy of educating as many doctors as the world needs and is known to have sent its doctors to many places worldwide where need for doctors has become apparent. The Henry Reeve Brigade, for example, is deployed wherever a major health crisis occurs.
In Kingston we have a major opioid crisis and the greatest need for doctors is among poor and homeless people. As Mayor I will definitely look to activate our relationship with Cienfuegos, Cuba to explore ways in which we can benefit from Cuba’s amazing health care system and how we can get Kingstonians from poor families to become educated as doctors in Cuba and return to serve their community.
Tina Fraser - Talking to a few Doctors, this is why there is a shortage: Travel work pays more. Doctors want more money so they go where the money is. On a municipal level, I can bring in many doctors from neighboring countries and they can do rapid certification tests to get their physician license upgraded to Canadian standards. Same with Veterinarians, Lawyers, dentists, etc. It's a fundamental economic principle that when supply exceeds demand for a good or service, prices fall.