The Chamber membership asked three questions of our candidates, details below.
Portsmouth District #5 Candidates
Don Amos Sebastian Vaillancourt Colleen Murphy
Oren Nimelman Zachary Typhair Ashley Perna
Question 1: What do you see as the top issue or issues affecting local businesses, and how would you use your vote on the council to address these issues?
Don Amos – Covid recovery
- Shortage of staff in all sectors.
- Covid is still in play.
- Affects consumer confidence-feeling safe in businesses.
- Uncertainty for this upcoming fall/winter.
- Business can only “pivot” so many times.
- Businesses cannot afford another provincial shutdown/reduced operating capacity.
- Supply chain not stable.
Using my vote
- Tax rebates
- Assisting in rent reduction for businesses
- Adjust bylaws for flexibility for sector expansion. Example during covid, larger patios were allowed
- Look into more street closure/business promotion days
- Provide funding for a city campaign to market our local businesses Example ‘Kingston-We are open for business!!’
- Promote tourism which brings business to our city
Sebastian Vaillancourt – The biggest issue facing local businesses is the cost-of-living crisis which is increasingly depressing real wages. Not only is this crisis hurting small business owners, but employees as well, who are facing less and less job security in this dangerous time.
If elected to council, I will use each and every vote I can to advocate for the alleviation of these oppressive conditions that workers and small business owners are facing. Mainly, I will be seeking to use my votes in favour of the development of publicly developed social rent-geared-to-income housing, so that people in Kingston no longer have to fear if they can pay their rent, or if their house is safe and clean. By providing adequate and affordable housing—as a start—workers and small business owners will be able to retain more wages, allowing them a more secure life and thus, a stable and more fair economy.
Colleen Murphy- Issue 1: Kingston’s unaffordable housing, in conjunction with chronic low vacancy rates for rental units has a profound impact for local business, it limits their ability to attract and retain staff who cannot afford housing in Kingston relative to other places.
Issue 2: Recovery from Financial impacts of Covid-19, and its collateral damage to their human resources such as the exodus of employees from Hospitality and Accommodation sectors due to prolonged closures and downturn in tourism and widespread employee burn-out.
How I would use my vote to address these issues?
With respect to the unaffordable housing and low vacancy rates, I support investments and housing intensification in residential and commercial neighbourhoods throughout the City.
That said, I am hopeful that we will continue to support programs that see secondary units incorporated into both new and mature neighbourhoods. I will ensure that thoughtful and considerate intensification is pursued throughout the City, only after comprehensive public engagement and District buy-in is achieved. I feel strongly that the entry-level and missing-middle housing is exactly the type of housing that the City has an interest in supporting. This is what is missing for workers that are price-sensitive, who are considering Kingston as their home and place of employment.
With respect to the second issue, I shop locally and have continued to do so during Covid-19. I suggest that the City look to promote this practice and encourage citizens to spend locally into the next term of City Council. While the City is currently revisiting its strategy for Tourism to attract visitors to Kingston and Area, we should also encourage/promote shopping locally so that local monies stay in the local economy, keep local businesses afloat, and in the pockets of local workers!
Oren Nimelman – Housing is my top issue by far.
While the market has done very well for more-established Kingstonians who bought their first home in the 1980s and 1990s, we're seeing an affordability crisis for our younger generations. A growing shortage of rental stock and skyrocketing rents has led to more millennials and Gen Z workers staying at home longer, leaving town, or simply being locked out of homeownership.
While the mechanism is indirect, there is an enormous impact on Kingston's labour market when young workers move out of town en masse.
My priorities for addressing it fall into three categories:
- Push back against NIMBYism to allow more density and an increase in housing stock;
- Negotiate a higher fraction of new builds to be set aside as affordable housing; and
- In parallel with private development, prioritize investment in profit-free co-operative and publicly-owned housing.
Zachary Typhair - COVID recovery and addressing homelessness.
We need places for homeless individuals and we need to address the drug issues in our city. These issues affect our businesses especially in the downtown core. The more we work together the faster we can address this.
Question 2: Do you believe Kingston needs to do more to support, attract, and retain business and jobs in the coming council term? What would you like to see achieved in this file in the coming four years?
Don Amos – I always believe that a strong business community is essential to a vibrant City. We must always seek to support our local owners/operators in new ways to support/attract/retain businesses and jobs.
Achievements for upcoming Council term
Attract new businesses
- Supporting city staff to review larger scale businesses in other sizeable cities to encourage these larger sector businesses to expand subsidiaries into Kingston
- New businesses to have time limited tax incentives, rent reduction/reduced cost for land.
- Kingston needs to expand business parks on major arteries to be more visible/more economically viable for new businesses to expand to Kingston.
- As previously mentioned in question one, to expand affordable housing to attract new workers to the Kingston market. If no housing, then no people to fill jobs for new/existing businesses
- Target graduating students
- Promoting the City and the potential if offers to younger employees/families in larger markets.
- Proceed with caution in business expansion to ensure that there will be employees to fill the jobs in expanding business sector
Sebastian Vaillancourt – 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 centers 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 quickly and landlords are held accountable
By opening and expanding public daycare centers, 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 with more affordable public services which can be held accountable to proper standards.
Colleen Murphy- Business is the backbone of a thriving community like Kingston. There are many unknowns facing the business community due to supply chain disruptions, rising interest rates, changes in demand for products and services. I believe Kingston should have increased supports for local businesses in the coming council term.
What would I like to see achieved on this file in the coming term?
I support initiatives that would offer support to local businesses, who can demonstrate thy are experiencing hardship through metrics like reductions in revenues, sector-wide impacts from Covid-19 etc. These programs need to work alongside Federal and Provincial programs to support our businesses. That said, I am against companies lining their coffers with monies that are intended to keep them afloat, if their income statements don’t demonstrate hardship then funding should be returned to reallocate to other businesses in need.
Oren Nimelman – Yes, provided that a given business doesn't pay any worker less than a living wage and doesn't engage in union-busting. I'd like to see the city shift its supports away from any businesses whose employees are paid so little that they're forced to rely on charity and government supports, and shift our priorities toward workplaces whose employees can thrive.
Zachary Typhair - I think we've been doing a great job attracting more businesses but I hear that more needs to be done to retain businesses and help new ones navigate their way through building processes.
We need to make consulting/good advice available. Local small business development centers are often hubs for business resources and free consultation.
Make it easier for small businesses to contract with the government. Local governments contract for all kinds of services.
We need to develop a Cost-Recovery Economic Plan for small business start-ups, including legal, accounting, human resources, and marketing services, during their first five years.
Question 3: How would you define success in this role for yourself, the city at large, and the district you intend to serve?
Don Amos – Myself
Personal success would be an increased and thorough understanding of all aspects of this role- of what makes our city great and applying that knowledge to benefit the decisions that I make at council.
The city at large
The city would positively benefit from the careful and thoughtful choices I make for the greater good, larger population of Kingston.
Success in my district would be being a city councillor who makes time for their constituents. Someone who listens to their concerns, responds in a timely manner and takes positive action on their behalf when needed.
Sebastian Vaillancourt – I will define success in this role by working with the rest of council to completely abolish homelessness in Kingston. This is often seen as a lofty goal in modern politics, but there are an overwhelming number of options that past governments in Kingston have simply refused to take. By current estimates there are approximately 400 homeless people in Kingston, and this most recent administration has taken no steps to provide this population with adequate solutions—they are too worried about making sure that homeless people stay on the periphery of our city, out of the view of those with money, out of the view of the ivory tower that is Queen’s University, out of the view of the new luxury housing developments. Success for myself and the slate of candidates who I’m running with, would be defined through both providing these homeless people with rent-geared-to-income housing, and installing the aforementioned social services and low barrier employment to them, so that they can finally live in a dignified manner.
I would also define success in this role by lifting up working peoples living conditions in Kingston. By providing services such as housing, daycare, food programs, free public transportation, and increased health services to workers, living conditions in Kingston will be increased for the mass of people. It has been a long time since Kingston has seen a government work to help the many and not the few, and by building strong relations with unions and individual workers, I want to provide Kingstonians the opportunity to improve their living conditions and fight against those who seek to take advantage of them.
Finally, I will define success in this role by making a more concerted effort to forge a genuine bond between the municipal government and surrounding Indigenous communities and work towards reconciliation on their terms. This includes consulting indigenous peoples on how to deal with our horrific historical legacy of genocide and make sure that it is remembered and recognized appropriately. I think a museum where crimes of our forefathers will be on display and taught should be opened, and all the monuments to white supremacists like Lord Jeffery Amherst and Sir John A. MacDonald be put in there, where educators and members of the indigenous communities can correctly educate the population of Kingston’s role in the genocide of indigenous people.
Colleen Murphy- I define success as a Councillor as a demonstration of commitment to public interests, inclusivity, and diversity; transparency of decision-making; and accountability to the public for the use of taxpayer monies. I am determined to deliver on these goals if elected! I am data-driven and would like to see how tax dollars are both earned and spent/allocated to each district. Portsmouth is a mature district, that hasn’t seen improvements to our backbone infrastructure for many decades. I would like to see a commitment to investment in Public Resources like the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, and our parks and transit. We have many institutional neighbours like Ongwanada, the Health Unit, Queen’s University’s West Campus, Richardson Stadium, the Limestone District School Board, St. Lawrence College etc. I view success as an ability to make partnerships between resident taxpayers (through the City of Kingston) and these organizations, that will benefit both residents and the users of these institutions. Ensuring that these institutions have adequate staff and visitor parking, and student housing, so that the fabric of mature neighborhoods is not destroyed or sacrificed is an important consideration. Not ensuring adequate plans are in place for these does not reflect the behaviour of good neighbours. These concepts can easily be scaled up City-wide and I consider these as measures of success at a City level.
Oren Nimelman – I'd define that success by the outcomes of the people who have so bar been left behind in Kingston's policy priorities.
I want to see housing made affordable, homelessness substantially eliminated, fulsome resources to protect tenants from illegal evictions and predatory practices, and a shift in our business supports toward workforces where either unionization or high pay ensure that profits benefit more than just a handful of people.
Zachary Typhair - I would define success if I could get a tiny home community built behind the tiny home community with wrap-around services behind the 300 Conacher Drive apartment buildings. The reason for this location is that it is close to many bus routes, No Frills, Dollarama, Service Ontario, Rideau Heights Community Centre and the Kingston Community Health Centre. I would also like to collaborate with the Provincial and Federal governments to pilot a basic income program for the tiny home community and the sleeping cabin project.
*The Chamber reached out to all candidates for their response. Ashley Perna and Nicole Florent did not submit a response.