My Reason For Running – A Ripple of Hope

Originally posted on May 5 2021.

As I shared with those Londoners who considered my candidacy for Mayor nearly three years ago, I have a passion to serve our community.   I am at a place in my life where I believe my skills and operating experience can be of significant benefit to our provincial government as it begins to turn its attention towards rebuilding our economy and restoring the public services our citizens should expect and deserve.

I am also motivated by the many challenges before us:

  • large segments of our economy including many small businesses and our hospitality sector, that are still reeling from the pandemic,
  • increasing disparity between wealthy households and those just getting by,
  • a city that is finding itself increasingly isolated and less relevant on the national stage,
  • neighbourhoods feeling less safe,
  • a downtown struggling to restore its vitality,
  • young people seeking the means to fulfill their dreams.

Perhaps the biggest motivation for me is best reflected in the words of Robert Francis Kennedy, the politician I most admired as a youth and the one who inspired me to seek public office.

Kennedy’s personal style really resonated with me.  He was confident, intelligent, charismatic, and a brilliant orator.  Yet he also exhibited an ease and humility about him, especially around people struggling to make ends meet.  He did not apologize for his privilege.  He leveraged it to help others.  He demonstrated empathy when needed, and firmness when required.  Above all he expressed himself in a manner that inspired you, that empowered you, that made you feel like you mattered and can make a difference if you are willing to step up.

In my opinion, Kennedy’s most inspirational words came in April 1966 during his tour in South Africa, where, at the height of apartheid, he was invited to speak to a gathering of students at the University of Cape Town. The speech became known as the Ripple of Hope and in it,  Kennedy said:

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

It is that Ripple of Hope that drives my passion for office.  A passion to represent those Londoners whose voices are not heard or well-represented – workers, retirees, young families, small business owners, taxpayers – who toil every day without complaint, who support not more government intrusion but enablement,  who seek not more public funding or “free programs”; just a fair shake at realizing their dreams.

Our city, our province and our country have a unique opportunity to emerge from the pandemic stronger and more vibrant than ever.  We have an opportunity to join with other leaders  throughout the region to create real and lasting change in our community  – in our economy, in our classrooms, in our hospitals, in our neighbourhoods.

I would like to be your agent of change, your voice at Queen’s Park, and your representative at the government table.  I have the skills, experience and above all the passion to make a noticeable difference in how London is perceived and received on the national and international stage.

Above all, I welcome the opportunity to serve, to send forth that Ripple of Hope and with grace, make a difference in the lives of our community,  our province and our nation.

I welcome your support.

Our Housing Challenge

Few would argue that we live in a world of increasing uncertainty, a world where citizens are becoming increasingly anxious about the many challenges before us –  fallout from the pandemic; the assault on Ukraine; concerns over inflation and affordability, the threat of rising interest rates, and a general inability to get ahead.

And nowhere is this uncertainty more pronounced than in housing.

As a parent of a 30 year-old and a 26 year-old  looking to fulfil their own dreams of homeownership, I know firsthand the enormous difficulty they are experiencing trying to save enough to enter the housing market, let alone support the mortgage that will likely follow them for a lifetime.   In fact, in the absence of our assistance, they could never afford to get in.

While the challenges surrounding this hot topic are multiple and complex,  the primary issue is without dispute – we simply do not have near enough supply to meet the demand.   In fact, the statistics are startling.  Canada ranks near the bottom of developed countries  in homes per capita, Ontario ranks near the bottom of Canadian provinces in homes per capita, and London’s new home builds mirrors the same low rate of major cities throughout Ontario.

A recent report by the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force cited that Ontario needs to construct double its output to an estimated 150,000 homes per year just to meet the existing demand, let alone accommodate newcomers.

Clearly, it is one of the top concerns continually expressed by voters at the door and the one most in need of immediate action if we hope to temper the increases in home prices anytime soon.

To this end, today’s blog focuses less on how we got here and more on what both me and my party hope to bring to the table to help resolve it in our community.

Our Supply Problem

To begin and to its credit, London is experiencing one of the most rapid and impressive increases in population anywhere in the country.  Unfortunately, like many cities throughout the province, this rapid population growth has not been matched by a similar growth rate in the supply of available housing.   While London’s population grew by 10-percent over the past five years, the number of dwellings only increased by 6.2 percent.

Not surprisingly,  a lack of supply coupled with an increase in demand leads to higher prices and in the case of London – much higher.

Several issues contribute to this lack of available supply.  They include a:

  • Lack of shovel-ready land on which to build.
  • Reluctance by some small minorities within large neighbourhoods to accept newer, higher density housing.
  • Dated Official Plan chocked full of dated and supply-stifling bylaws that still prevails as the City works through the final approval steps of the new London Plan.
  • Slow development application approval process that tracks behind London’s municipal peers.
  • Relatively inexpensive appeal process that can further delay development.

And while London’s planning leadership team and processes have improved, one builder characterized it as “still very challenging”.

In response, the Ford government introduced legislation to boost housing starts, and make it easier to purchase a home, including;

  • Taxing non-residents province-wide who speculate on properties and drive up prices.
  • Strengthening consumer protections.
  • Enabling municipalities with tools and standards designed to accelerate the planning, review and approval process.
  • Making select provincial lands available to aid non-profit builders in the development of affordable housing options.

However, much work needs to be done.

S.E.M. Construction CEO Amir Shenouda shares with Minister Romano and myself the many challenges London's housing industry is facing trying to meet this unprecedented demand in new homes.

A Path To Increased Supply

In my view, London is uniquely positioned to play a significant role in the expansion of our housing supply both in the region and across the province.

For one, London would benefit greatly by electing a Progressive Conservative in the upcoming provincial election, thereby giving it a seat at the government table and an ability to positively influence housing policy in this region.

Second, I would welcome the opportunity to partner with Mayor Holder, Deputy Mayor Morgan, and Councillors like Lewis, Lehman, Hamou, Hillier, Peloza, Van Meerbergen, and Fyfe-Millar, with whom I have a respectful working relationship and who have demonstrated through their voting record and innovate approaches, a strong desire to increase housing supply in our city.

Third, I believe that the province, municipality and builder community should partner on the introduction of new tools, rules and resources all designed to speed up the permit-to-completion process.  Examples include: greater end to end digitization of the approval process, expanded ‘right-of-use’ zoning rules, fast-track inspection approvals from qualifying high-integrity builders, and increased minimum height requirements to facilitate intensification.

Finally, the province and municipality should revisit the urban growth boundary to ensure that there is sufficient space to accommodate new housing within the city limits rather than see buyers purchase their homes outside of the city and lose the resulting tax base to surrounding towns while paving over valuable farmland.

In summary, London stands to benefit greatly from this influx of population, jobs and opportunity, if it is willing to nominate leaders who both recognize the challenges and are prepared to rise above them, for the good our residents, our newcomers, and young first time home buyers and our neighbourhoods.