The Chamber membership asked three questions of our candidates, details below.
Meadowbrook-Strathcona District #8 Candidates
Jeff McLaren Michael Murphy Jacob Wynperle
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?
Jeff McLaren - Inflation and tight labour market are the two biggest threats to business right now. Council can help cushion inflation by reducing the cost of business such as by committing to the lowest property tax increase and the freezing or reducing of licensing fees.
Michael Murphy - Our local business community is an important constituency in Kingston, driving economic development and creating new jobs for new and lifelong Kingstonians. As I have talked with members of the business community in my door-to-door canvassing, I have heard concerns about the value and competitiveness of municipal services provided to businesses relative to the level of property tax paid. I have also heard about how costly delays in City approval processes can be for start-ups and businesses looking to scale. Third, I have heard concerns about finding the right employees at the right time for the right job, and retaining talent within our City (especially when people with in-demand skills choose to move to more affordable housing markets). Because I believe in the importance of consultation to make informed decisions, when economic development issues are set to come before council, I would reach out to individuals in relevant sectors to ensure that I can more fully understand the implications of potential policy changes on the community. I see growth (both in residential and commercial space development) as an important task for the City in the coming years, and the expanded tax base created by such development would more sustainably fund services and service expansions without burdensome increases to property taxes.
Jacob Wynperle - The biggest issues facing local business 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.
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?
Jeff McLaren - There is only so much aggregate disposable income to be spent on local business. We can increase this by 1) population growth, 2) the affordable housing that is needed to house the new population with enough surplus income to spend locally and 3) support for buy-local initiatives.
Michael Murphy - As we have seen with the recent recognition of Kingston as a smart site for investment, there is still a lot of untapped potential in our community. To attract growing, global, and innovative businesses, Kingston can do more in terms of digital outreach to inform potential future businesses of the possibilities in Kingston, while also being proactive in assessing how needs can be met. Continuing to leverage the human resources of Kingston’s highly-skilled workforce, including graduates of our world-class higher education institutions, will help to find the right person for the right job. As noted in the prior question, I think that it is important for Council to recognize how its housing strategy has an important influence on the economic development goals. Housing availability and affordability should not be a barrier to employment and economic development in our community, and by considering the remaining recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, we can expand housing options (with the expanded tax base from the market side supporting municipal services in a sustainable way, from business services to social and supportive housing).
Jacob Wynperle - 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.
Question 3: How would you define success in this role for yourself, the city at large, and the district you intend to serve?
Jeff McLaren - Success would be increased business participation in the economy and increased employment.
Michael Murphy - I would define success in the areas of economic and housing development as the consistent attraction of new firms, retention of established businesses, and expansion of our housing stock (both market-side and social/supportive). As noted in the Chamber’s response to recent census figures, Kingston cannot afford to fall behind peer municipalities in population growth, and this requires the availability of both employment and housing opportunities. Within Meadowbrook-Strathcona, there are a number of daily life issues that have fallen by the wayside in recent years. We have streets in need of repair, unenforced speeding issues throughout the district, and parks with hazards including broken signage and overgrowth. For constituents interested in my connection to the neighbourhood and priorities for the district, please visit my website at www.Murphy4Kingston.ca
Jacob Wynperle - 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.