I am reminded, as I approach my 48th birthday next month, how fortunate I am to live, work and serve as a politician in Canada. In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to mentor an elected member of the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba district assembly from Ghana.

Sarah Kunyangna is an elected assembly member who is well known across her district as someone with excellent communication skills, speaking nine languages. As the most active assembly member, she takes pride in working hard to improve her communities’ livelihoods. She has recently joined the Abantu Network for female assembly members to share experiences, which can enable her to support and encourage other female assembly members from other districts in the Northern Region. Sarah campaigned to be an elected assembly member to show young girls that they can do anything. From this, she’s been a strong advocate for the assembly supporting female education and health concerns.

Sarah was selected to be a delegate to the leadership program entitled Kumvana. The program was developed and organized by Engineers Without Boarders (EWB) a Canadian not-for-profit organization.  The Kumvana program brings change makers from counties in Africa to Canada for a month in January of each year. The primary objective of the Kumvana Program is for African change agents to have an increased capacity to create systemic changes that significantly benefit their communities. To achieve this, activities are aimed at strengthening leadership, strengthening profession-specific knowledge, facilitating reflection and comparison, and facilitating networking and collaboration. While in Canada, EWB seeks individual specific leadership opportunities for each delegate. Sarah is the only elected official attending Kumvana 2014 and I was asked if she could spend some time with me, observing political life in the City of Waterloo.

As always happens when you volunteer, I have received so much more than I have given. Sarah stayed with my family for five nights and during that time I marveled in viewing our beautiful country through her eyes. The following are some memories that I share with you:

  • Sarah shovelling snow with vigour and excitement. "Take my picture of me working", she said
  • Ice skating in the public square and watching someone put on skates for the first time ever on one of the coldest nights of the year
  • Walking my son Adam to the bus so Sarah can see how children are transported to school in Canada and having Sarah see the bus come through the snow and say, "wow you would never see that in Ghana; a woman driving a bus"
  • The joy on her face as she finished a very Canadian hamburger and fries luncheon at the first Canadian Restaurant she ever ate in
  • While watching me knit a baby gift, she said in Ghana a woman would put away their knitting after becoming a politician. Knitting work would be a job that I would hire someone else to do for me. She spoke in this conversation about how people once they succeed to higher office would discontinue any work seen to be "below" their station. I explained that in Canada we value the sharing of our time and talents and that many people are creative. Further, regardless of title or office of title it is ok to be seen working at things such as knitting, sewing or woodworking.
  • Sarah shared her stories of attending Budget day at Toronto City Council and was surprised that the Councillors called each other names. She also commented on seeing two men getting married at City Hall and how it would never be supported or accepted in Ghana.
  • I worry about managing a 100 million dollar operating budget with the goal of ensuring all citizens in Waterloo feel equally served and she worries about all of the women she represents dying of undiagnosed breast-cancer. She is working to raise $12,500 Canadian dollars to provide breast screening clinics for over 300 women per year
  • Sarah's is an unpaid position where she is provided with a motorcycle with no money for fuel. She uses the motorcycle to meet with her constituents, some of which are over 300 km away.
  • Sarah is one of only two women elected to her assembly and with four other appointed women she is one of 6 women out of 48 members of assembly.
  • The assembly is focused on issues of housing and building infrastructure associated with water supply.

While in Canada, Sarah had the chance to explore many levels of Government in Ontario having visited with several members of provincial parliament (MPPs) including Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Fife and several City Councillors including Councillor Stintz from the City of Toronto.

At the Waterloo Region Municipal Woman's Campaign School, Sarah provided an overview of her work as an elected official in Ghana, some of her many challenges and her passion to affect change for the people she represents. So while I hope that I have inspired Sarah, I know she has inspired me.

Waterloo Regional Police Services

The new north division of Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS) is now located in Ward 4 at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Weber Street. Since the official opening in the summer, I have had the chance to tour the facility a couple of times. The building provides a much needed home to officers that have been working in Waterloo for many years in the old Carnegie library building on Erb Street.

We often take community policing for granted. We all hate getting a speeding ticket, but when we see a speeder we wonder where the police are. If our neighbours children are having a wild party and we call for service we are frustrated by response times. Prioritizing limited police resources is a big challenge. They are needed to respond to crimes in progress and are required at all times to consider the priority of the many calls they are receiving. A 911 emergency will be responded before a noise concern. I thought you might be interested to know that the cost of service per household for WRPS was $531 in 2012.

If you are interested to learn more about WRPS please check out their annual report: www.atyourservice2012.ca

Upcoming Events:

  • Winterloo (Ice Dogs Festival) February 15-17 2014. Details at: winterloo.ca
  • Municipal Election Day: October 27, 2014
  • Upcoming registration dates for Community Activities:
  1. oSpring leisure/activity programs / camps / carl - March 5
  2. oSpring aquatics programs - March 11
  3. oMinor Soccer registrations open www.waterloominorsoccer.com
  • Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival: July 18-20, 2014
  • Waterloo Buskers Festival: August 21-24, 2014
  • Open Streets will be happening in Uptown Waterloo this summer. For details check out: openstreetsutw.ca

I am going "squirrelly" being off of my bike. I look forward to clear roads and sunny days that I am confident will be arriving soon. Until then I will continue to ski as often as I can and be thankful for the wonder seasons we have here in Canada. I leave you will one last thought: imagine waking up tomorrow with only the things we are thankful for today.

I welcome your comments on my columns so please do not hesitate to contact me at: email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . twitter: @dianelfreeman

 

Looking for information related to the proposed commercial/residential development at the corner of Bridge and Northfield? Here is the City Link: http://city.waterloo.on.ca/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=2792

At a Meeting with neighbours on December 29th the following notes were taken by a citizen:
 

Deer Run Neighbourhood Meeting Notes – December 29th Meeting at 633 Deer Run Drive

Attended the meeting:

  • Diane Freeman our City Councillor
  • Cameron Rapp,  City of Waterloo
  • 28 Neighbours from Deer Run
  • Regrets:  Other Neighbours would have liked to attend but could not due to timing conflicts 

Overview of the Planning Process and where the City is in the process

The developer approached the City with a plan. The city is required to provide two public meetings, the first of which took place on December 13th. At this point our City Councillors have not formed an opinion. The next meeting will take place in January. This will be a formal meeting at which time the developer and the community can present their positions. This meeting will set the stage for a decision.

 

What are the potential positions that could be put forth at a Formal Meeting in January?

We discussed a number of potential positions

  • The loss of ‘neighbourhood’ with noise, light, air pollutions, loss of privacy, security concerns.
  • Drainage concerns with grade and inadequately maintained drainage runoff.
  • The poor aesthetics of square, unimaginative, industrial and commercial buildings and parking lot.
  • Whether there is a real necessity/requirement/market for another grocery store in the community.
  • Opportunity for an attractive, ‘green’ development that enhances the neighbourhood.
  • Suggestions for an appropriate commercial/residential buffer, mitigating the noise, light, air pollution etc risks.
  • The gaps in the Marketing Study with suppliers such as National Grocers, Walmart, Price Chopper and perhaps others.  The impact to the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market and to existing grocers.
  • The already high levels of vehicle traffic in the intersection, the safety issues of traffic jams, the impact on the broader community as alternative routes are used, including the recently re-engineered Davenport Road. (Historically traffic issues have not been a strong argument.)
  • Concerns for children/grandchildren in neighbourhood with respect to Deer Run Park; proximity to excess pedestrian and vehicular traffic
  • Concerns for safety of children walking to and from Lester B. Pearson P.S. and St. Luke Separate School

 

What is the City Planner role in the process?

The Planner assigned to this project is Trevor Hawkins.  He will review the Developer’s proposal and all the input from the community and then make a go/no go decision.

 

What is Council's role in the process?

The 7 Waterloo City Councillors will review the Developer’s Proposal and all the input from the community and then vote.  The Mayor will vote only if a deciding vote is required.

 

How can citizens prepare for the Formal Meeting?

  • Review the Market Study called ‘Retail and Marketing Report’. We know the neighbourhood best and are in the best position to identify gaps in the plan.
  • Several voices tend to be more effective.  Better to have a number of neighbours contribute rather, with a variety of positions.  (We can organize this for maximum impact.)
    • Citizens can prepare a written summary of a ‘position’.
    • Citizens can present their position at the next meeting.

 

Preference for another meeting with the City Planner

We agreed we would like another neighbourhood meeting to take place before the Formal Meeting in January.  Diane Freeman agreed to organize the meeting. It will most likely take place on either Wednesday January 12th or 19th, possibly at RIM Park.  Diane will use the email addresses she currently has to advise us of time and location. Details will also be posted on the Facebook Group page.

 
August 14, 2010
By Terry Pender, Record staff

WATERLOO — Coun. Diane Freeman is working with a small group that could bring about big changes for cycling in Ontario.

She is attending the annual convention next week in Windsor for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario where the Bicycle Friendly Community Program will be launched.

“The real benefit to municipalities is about sharing best practices,” Freeman said.

A small group from Waterloo is working with the Ontario Share the Road Coalition to bring the American program to Ontario.

For years the League of American Bicyclists has invited cities to complete a detailed, 28-page application about cycling in their communities. Cities are awarded bronze, silver, gold and platinum ranks.

Now, with the help of a University of Waterloo professor, an urban planner with the City of Waterloo and Freeman, the program is set to go in Ontario, Eleanor McMahon of the Share the Road Coalition, said.

“We will be at AMO launching the program and inviting municipalities to, starting in September, apply to the program to begin to rank themselves against other municipalities and see how bicycle friendly they are,” McMahon said.

Completing the application form is at the heart of the program. It gives city councillors, urban planners and cycling advocates a lot to think about.

Does your community have a complete streets policy? A bicycle accommodation study? When was it adopted? How was it adopted? How is it implemented?

“It gets you thinking about things,” Freeman said of the application.

What is the name of your community’s bicycle program manager? Do you have a bicycle advisory committee?

“There are a lot of municipalities out there doing a lot of great things and this will be a platform for measuring how well they are doing it,” she said.

Making a city more bicycle friendly addresses many issues at the same time—obesity, reducing air pollution and easing traffic congestion, Freeman said.

How do you ensure there are end of trip facilities for cyclists? How many bike parking spaces are there in your community? What percentage of bridges and tunnels in your community are accessible to bicycles?

Questions like this make the information gathered by the coalition a valuable resource for cities that want to become more livable, walkable and more bicycle friendly, McMahon said.

“What this program does is really tell municipalities where they are on the spectrum, and gives them some knowledge and expertise about what they need to close the gaps,” she said.

Scott Nevin, the head of policy development for the City of Waterloo, helped create the Ontario version of this program.

“It is a great self reflection for municipalities to look at what maybe they should be doing and what others are doing,” he said.

“So I think that’s going to be a very effective tool to put cycling on the radar a little more clearly,” Nevin said.

Broadly speaking, communities are ranked based on five categories—engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation and planning.

“I think that whole application process is a really powerful tool to get people to look a little deeper at their own organization, their own community and how they support cycling or don’t,” Nevin said.

Tim Kenyon is an avid cyclist who is excited about the Bicycle Friendly Community Program coming to Ontario.

“I think this is great,” he said.

Kenyon, who chairs the City of Kitchener’s cycling advisory committee, thinks a city would learn a lot just from filling out the application form.

“The kind of feedback you would get from doing that is likely to be very useful,” he said.

 
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