Seven Region of Waterloo politicians not seeking re-election in October brings ‘fresh faces, new ideas’ to regional government

WATERLOO REGION — The municipal election in October will see a “brand new slate” of politicians at regional council.

At least seven of the 16 seats at the Region of Waterloo council will be newly elected at the Oct. 24 municipal elections.

Six of eight directly elected regional councilors are not seeking re-election and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky has said he won’t run for mayor again. Mayors in the region’s three cities and four townships automatically have a seat on regional council. The regional chair fills the 16th seat.

“I think that is a good thing,” said Peter Woolstencroft, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Waterloo, about the new faces coming to regional council.

“New blood” is needed to represent the region’s sociological and demographic changes, Woolstencroft said.

“Those voices have not been heard around the council table,” he said. “The voices heard come from a narrow slice of Waterloo (Region).”

The many meetings and the “enormous” number of decisions for new councilors will be overwhelming and “mentally and physically exhausting” for some, Woolstencroft said, but over time, newly elected politicians will learn.

“There will be all kinds of people who will make mistakes and there will be a lot of learning,” he said.

Woolstencroft acknowledges that running as a regional councilor is difficult because the candidate must mount a campaign for an entire city or township.

Most often incumbents are re-elected, and it is tough for someone who is new to the community to seek election, he said.

The six veteran councilors not seeking re-election include Tom Galloway, Elizabeth Clarke and Geoff Lorentz in Kitchener; Karl Kiefer and Helen Jowett in Cambridge; and Sean Strickland in Waterloo. The seventh vacancy is that of the Waterloo mayor.

Councilors Jim Erb and Michael Harris said they are running in the fall election, along with regional Chair Karen Redman.

“We are all for fresh faces and new ideas but it’s a big turnover,” Harris said. “It will be a substantial loss to our community.”

With at least seven new faces at the council table, it means a larger than average turnover, deputy regional clerk Tim Brubacher said in an interview.

“We are losing some long-term veteran councilors and that will be felt,” he said.

Regional staff is working on an orientation package for incoming councillors, as it does for every election, Brubacher said.

“We recognize there are complicated issues and it’s not an easy pickup for a lot of people,” he said.

There are “front-burner issues” that incoming councilors must gain understanding on, such as strategic planning and budget, affordable housing plans, transit and infrastructure.

Other basic training includes how meetings should be run, conflict of interest rules and the council code of conduct.

Regional officials can brief councilors on regional issues, Brubacher said, but cannot brief them on issues “we don’t know are coming. We couldn’t have briefed the incoming council in 2018 on COVID-19, and that is a challenge they have faced for most of this term.”

Candidates for the October municipal election have until Aug. 19 to register to be on the ballot. The deadline is 2 pm

Nomination fees are $100 for councilors and $200 for regional chair. The fees are refundable after all candidates hand in their financial statements by March 31, 2023.

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