Category Archives: News

Region of Waterloo seizes record low-cost loans

The Region of Waterloo capitalized on a drop in the bond market to secure the lowest borrowing costs in the municipality’s history.

The region issued $65 million on ten and 20-year debentures for infrastructure spending at record low interest rates of 2.6 and 3.3 per cent.

The region will borrow about $53.4 million and the cities of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo will carry the rest of the $65 million loan.

Moody’s Investor Service scores the region’s credit rating at AAA, the highest rating available. That gives the region access to the most inexpensive borrowing rates possible at any given time. The local municipalities in-turn piggy-back onto the region to enjoy the same rates.

October 21 debenture breakdown by municipality
The Region of Waterloo and the cities of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo issued a combined $65 million in debentures. The deal closes on Thursday. (Region of Waterloo/ staff report)

Councillors received a staff report for information on Tuesday afternoon, detailing the interest rates and an overview of the spending plans for the previously approved debt.

The issue was priced and purchased through fiscal agents with CIBC World Markets on Tuesday, October 21, a day described in the staff report as a “quiet afternoon in the market relative to pending municipal and provincial,” borrowing.

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Craig Dyer, the region’s chief financial officer, said timing was critical.

“From the third week of September right through until a couple of weeks ago when we priced and placed the issue, bond yields came down significantly. So we tried to capture that low point as best we could.

“In terms of investing in infrastructure and financing it over a ten-year term, this has been a really good time period to do that.”

The region’s funds will be funneled into infrastructure projects approved in 2013 and 2014. Those projects are either complete, underway or about to begin, including:

  • $23 million for wastewater treatment plants
  • $7.1 million for waste management
  • $7.1 million for regional buildings
  • $6 million for Grand River Transit garage expansion plans
  • $4.4 million for courthouse renovations
  • $2.8 million for Waterloo Regional Police capital projects

The region remains on track to meet its year-end debt projection of $507 million, when factoring in debt repayment of $41.2 million, Dyer said.

Since 2009, the region has been able to secure interest rates on ten-year debentures from 3.74 per cent at the highest to the record setting low 2.6 per cent.

Waterloo Region has capitalized on historically low interest rates to make long-term infrastructure investments. (Region of Waterloo staff report)
Waterloo Region has capitalized on historically low interest rates to make long-term infrastructure investments. (Region of Waterloo staff report)

This latest debenture closes Thursday and the proceeds will be received that day, according to the staff report.

Woolwich mayor-elect Sandy Shantz is first woman to hold post

Sandy Shantz isn’t typically one to draw distinctions based on gender in politics, and yet she is the first woman ever elected mayor of Woolwich Township.

“There’s a piece of it that feels kind of good to say, ‘they haven’t chosen a woman before,’ but I’d like to think that they’re just choosing the best person, whoever that may be,” Shantz said.

Two of every three voters agreed that Shantz is indeed the best person for the job.

“It’s a big responsibility, I think, to win by that margin. But also it tells me people trust me, and they trust me to be who I am and that gives me confidence too.”

In an emailed statement, township spokesperson Devin Petteplace wrote, “The electors of Woolwich have given mayor-elect Shantz an impressive mandate through their overwhelming support on election day.”

Shantz said her victory was in-part the work of a great campaign team, “I had a whole lot of people helping me and it was just terrific. It was a great experience and really inspiring to have so many people who wanted to help me.”

Shantz said her team included good friends, acquaintances and some people she had never met before.

Shantz and her husband Brian have lived in Elmira for the past 30 years where they raised three sons, Adam, Brad and Luke.

Shantz believes there are two main factors that can, “skew the statistics,” with regard to the fact there are fewer women than men in politics: the need for women role models and individual family planning choices.

“For me, for example, the timing had to be right. When my kids were younger, I wanted to spend time with them … so you put things on hold as a woman,” she said.

Shantz realizes she is a role model for women with political aspirations.

“My son’s girlfriend had said that to me and I hadn’t really thought about [being a role model]. Because I had done some things as the kids were younger, what I could manage … working in the community and also being there for the boys.”

Shantz served one term as township councillor from 2006 to 2010. She also served two terms as  trustee for the Waterloo Region District School Board from 1997 to 2003.

Last year, Shantz was chair of the Woolwich Community Services capital fundraising campaign to build a new facility. The drive raised more than $1 million.

For the past three decades, Shantz also held numerous leadership roles in the Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada, the Mennonite Church of Canada and the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church.

The newly elected Woolwich township council will be sworn in on December 9th at the Elmira Lions Hall  located at 40 South St West, Elmira.

Women remain underrepresented in Waterloo Region municipal politics

Female representation Waterloo Region

The infographic tells the story: municipal politics continues to be a man’s game in Waterloo Region, in spite of the fact women make up half the population.

Regional council maintained five women, Kitchener and Cambridge each gained one woman and Waterloo city council lost two female representatives.

“We’ve seen great strides made in the last couple decades, but we still have a ways to go,” said Sarah Marsh, newly elected councillor for Kitchener Ward 10.

Marsh was undecided on whether to run and said she was encouraged to do so while attending the Waterloo Region Women’s Municipal Campaign School  organized by regional councillor for Waterloo, Jane Mitchell and the YWCA  earlier this year.

“More than a dozen local female politicians took time out of their day to come and encourage more women to run,” Marsh said.

At the February workshop, Marsh said a speech by Christine Elliott, Progressive Conservative MPP for Whitby-Oshawa, resonated with her.

“In [Elliott's] experience, a lot of women don’t have that initial confidence to just put themselves out there without that bit of encouragement.”

“For myself, I was asked by several people to run and that did help me to take the plunge,” Marsh said.

Marsh’s election win represents part of a slight shift on Kitchener council from two women to three out of eleven elected representatives.

Incumbents Kelly Galloway-Sealock and Yvonne Fernandes were returned to office.

“I’m definitely happy that we increased the number of females on council,” Galloway-Sealock said.

“It’s been a while since there has been three, even with the increase in council size last term, so I think it’s really encouraging to see that.”

“But I do still think that we need to have a few more just to have a more balanced approach,” Galloway-Sealock said.

Women who are interested in politics need to get involved in the community before they decide to run in order to raise their profile, she said.

Galloway-Sealock also suggests increased women’s municipal campaign school programming could help encourage women to run.

“We only run it once every four years. Maybe we need to start running that a little more.”

Beyond supporting women in running for office, Galloway-Sealock said there could be a benefit in getting youth of both sexes involved in the community at a younger age, “so that they can see the difference that they can make in the community.”

Fernandes said females currently in politics could help get more women involved by lending their time to mentor them.

“I see a lot of women doing more mentoring and I myself have taken on mentoring of a young girl who is here as an international student. I think that [mentorship] will definitely help more women consider a political career as an option.”

“We had an amazing number of female candidates. Recognizing that a number of them were under 40 tells me that women are trying to balance even more in their lives,” Fernandes said.

“Hopefully that means they have extremely supportive partners, because you have to have a very supportive partner to be able to be out in the public all the time and balance family.”

Last term, Waterloo city council was comprised of five women, including mayor Brenda Halloran, and three men. That split was reversed with the 2014 election. Angela Veith, Diane Freeman and Melissa Durrell were re-elected, while Halloran didn’t run and Karen Scian ran for a regional council position.

In Cambridge, Jan Liggett was elected in Ward 4, which was vacated by Ben Tucci. Donna Reid and Pam Wolf were re-elected, improving the balance from two to three women of nine city representatives.

Regional council retains the composition of five women and eleven men. Mayors-elect Sandy Shantz and Sue Foxton, from Woolwich and North Dumfries respectively, join the horseshoe. Jane Mitchell, and regional councillors-elect Helen Jowett in Cambridge and Karen Redman in Kitchener round out the bunch.

Voter apathy persists in Waterloo Region

The unofficial results are in from the 2014 municipal elections in Waterloo Region. In spite of vigorous mayoral races, a big-budget challenger for regional chair and online voting in Cambridge, the number of ballots collected at the polls reflects an electorate that continues to be disengaged.

Voter turnout in Kitchener improved slightly to 29.94 per cent compared to 28.55 per cent in 2010.

In Cambridge, notwithstanding the introduction of online and telephone voting, turnout was relatively unchanged. This year, 29.89 per cent of voters cast their ballot compared to  28.71 per cent in 2010.

City of Waterloo’s electorate was the most engaged of the three cities of the region, with 35.93 per cent voter turnout this year. However, last election the city saw 41.16 per cent turnout.

Bob Williams, a retired University of Waterloo professor of political science, expected competitive open mayoral races in Kitchener and Waterloo to boost voter turnout.

“But that didn’t happen, except in a very marginal way, and ironically one of the cases where there was not a competitive race was in Cambridge, yet there was a little bit of [an increase].”

The day after the election, Williams  who taught municipal politics for 35 years  is pondering why voter turnout declined in Waterloo.

“I don’t have a definitive answer just yet. I’m wondering whether this fairly vitriolic campaign that went on around the LRT spilled over into people basically saying, ‘I don’t believe anybody. Don’t vote, it only encourages them. I’m just going to sit on my hands.'”

“The whole issue of who to believe was very significant,” Williams said, “you probably sided with the viewpoint that you went in with. But if you went in with no opinion, you had sets of numbers, claims, accusation and whatever that just didn’t square.”

“I think for a lot of people it was a combination of ‘I just can’t figure this out,’ or ‘I’m just too overwhelmed by it and it’s just too much for me to waste any time on.'”

In addition, the polarizing ballot questions in Waterloo regarding water fluoridation and whether to discuss the merits of amalgamation with Kitchener, “probably were hidden factors,” that contributed to an increase in voter turnout in 2010, Williams said.

At the macro level, depressed voter turnout may be connected to dropping levels of community engagement, volunteerism, and membership in service clubs, churches and political parties.

Peter Woolstencroft, also a retired University of Waterloo professor of political science, suggests voter apathy is deeply seeded in today’s egocentric society, where individual satisfaction trumps community involvement.

“This leads people to not to want to participate in traditional social institutions. Traditional churches are in trouble, there’s been a norm breakdown, so that people think their happiness is what’s important. They want to be happy,” rather than lead engaged lives in the community, Woolstencroft said.

“The great majority of [politicians] are well intended. So we don’t a problem of a lack of people with good motivations wanting to serve in politics. But we have a problem with a lot of people who are not well motivated to be citizens.”

“It’s hard to be a citizen, because you have to actually think about stuff; you have to cut through the rhetoric and piffle and say ‘okay what’s really going on here, what’s important to me and how can I best express myself?'” Woolstencroft said.

“And it’s more fun to watch kitty movies on YouTube.”


 

An earlier version of this story erroneously listed Kitchener’s 2010 voter turnout as 24.5 per cent.

Jay Aissa’s wife Natalie lends voice to election day robocall

The campaign to elect Jay Aissa Waterloo Regional Chair enlisted Aissa’s wife, Natalie, to voice the anti-LRT candidate’s election day robocall:

“Every person who knows Jay, knows him to be a sincere, fair and honest man,” Natalie said of her husband.

There was no mention of the Aissa camp’s regional debt projection in the call. Most of Aissa’s messaging claims the region will be $1.5 billion in debt by 2024, which was proven inaccurate.

It appears annual debt repayments were omitted from the figure, which was based on the 2014 to 2023 capital plan. The annually reviewed spending framework calls for the possibility of taking on $1 billion of debt to pay part of the bill for $2.6 billion in projects.

With debt repayments, the actual debt owing by 2023 would be closer to $755 million, said Angela Hinchberger, the region’s director of treasury services.

“We are currently working on our 2015 to 2024 capital plan, and we are making significant changes in terms of timing of expenditures, other financing sources and we expect to actually issue less debt,” Hinchberger said.

Polling stations close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

‘A wolf is at our doors,’ analyzing Jay Aissa’s apparent attack ad

The campaign to elect Jay Aissa to Waterloo Regional Chair is running an apparent attack ad against Ken Seiling in the lead-up to Monday’s municipal election.

The Waterloo business owner’s latest ad – described by his team as a “political ad,” – seems to refer to Ken Seiling as “an old wolf,” and prominently features sound effects of the animal howling and growling.

Aissa’s ad:

Jay Aissa’s communications lead Ron Bowers said via email that Aissa is unavailable for comment on the content of the ad today as he is in outside meetings.

However, Bowers said the wolf reference is not aimed at Seiling.

“The Wolf is at Our Doors ad is clearly making reference to the Wolf being the LRT.  No where does this ad refer to Ken Seiling being a wolf,” he wrote.

Bowers stopped short of describing the piece as an attack ad.

“It’s a political ad asking the people of the Region to vote for Jay Aissa,” Bowers wrote.

The ad is in-line with other Aissa campaign material, in that it again states that regional debt will balloon to, “well over $1.5 billion,” in the next ten years.

In my capacity as a journalist, I have proven in a balanced and thorough investigation that this claim is categorically false.

As uncovered in the piece, Aissa’s figure is based on the 2014-2023 capital plan and appears to omit annual debt repayments. The region’s actual projected net debt level, even if councillors go ahead with 100 per cent of possible borrowing, is actually $755 million according to Angela Hinchberger, the region’s director of treasury services.

As a point of contrast to the Aissa ad, have a listen to Seiling’s spot.

There are five other candidates running for regional chair including Moira Magee, Oz Cole-Arnal, Robert Milligan, Paul Myles and John Wolf.

Fact check: Jay Aissa claims Waterloo Region’s debt to hit $1.5 billion by 2024

“The $1.5 billion is really a number pulled out of mid-air,” Region of Waterloo budget committee chair Tom Galloway.


With five days until Ontarians elect new municipal councils and school boards on October 27, it’s time to question some figures presented as facts in a series of advertisements commissioned by the Jay Aissa campaign for Waterloo Regional Chair.

The anti-LRT business owner behind a halted court injunction to stop the Region of Waterloo’s Ion rapid transit system is one of seven candidates running for the region’s top elected job, including incumbent Ken Seiling.

Aissa’s ads claim the Region of Waterloo is projected to be saddled with $1.5 billion of debt by 2024. An alarming figure to be sure.

But where does the number come from? Is it accurate?

In short, no.

Aissa’s claim is nearly double what the region projects.

Now, the long answer. Continue reading