Scene & Herd recently sent emails to all candidates in the 2018 Milton municipal election running for Local Councillor and Regional Councillor positions.
Milton’s ward boundaries were recently redrawn. Milton now has four wards, down from eight in the 2014 municipal election. In the upcoming 2018 Milton municipal election, one Local Councillor and one Regional Councillor will be elected from each of the four wards.
Local Councillors are responsible for reviewing reports, making recommendations, and creating policies related to the Town of Milton. They serve on Milton’s Town Council.
Regional Councillors are responsible for reviewing reports, making recommendations, and creating policies related to Halton Region and the Town of Milton. They serve on Halton Regional Council as well as Milton’s Town Council.
Ward 1 is located in the northwest part of town. It is bordered by Derry Road to the south and Regional Road 25 (Ontario Street) to the east. Public Schools in Ward 1 include Brookville, Escarpment View, Martin Street, W.I. Dick, J.M. Denyes, and Milton District.
Cindy Lunau is the only incumbent councillor running for election in the new Ward 1. She is currently the Local Councillor for the old Ward 3.
There are more youth living in Milton than ever before. This means that Milton will soon have thousands of new potential voters. As such, we asked the candidates for their answers to seven questions primarily relating to issues facing Milton youth.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, regardless of incumbency. The candidates’ answers have not been edited in any way. We are unable to include any photos due to technical restrictions. The questions and answers are listed below:
Question 1: Do you believe our current town infrastructure (schools, libraries, community centres, sports centres, parks, trails, etc.) addresses the needs of Milton youth effectively?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: I believe that current infrastructure is well on its way to addressing youth needs effectively, but there is still work to do. I grew up in Milton and as a high-schooler, I took advantage of the facilities at the Milton Public Library (which was on Bruce Street, back then) and any events or opportunities that became available through school. There were two hockey rinks where we spent most of our social time, but for those not involved in sports, there really was not much else to do. We’d walk around town and try to find friends (this is before cell phones) or we’d gather in neighbourhood parks and parking lots watching our friends skateboard, often kicked out by adults who accused us of loitering. Most weekends, we would just hang around spots in town, or maybe go to the movies (if we had some extra cash). There was not a lot to do, and boredom sometimes led to behavior that was not positive.
I now have four children, ages 13 to 22 years, and have seen the role of youth through the eyes of a parent as well. I am delighted to see more infrastructure programs that are focused on young people, and giving them spaces where they are meant to feel welcome. New sports facilities are fabulous, but again, don’t offer much for those who are not involved in athletics. The Arts Center and library branches have the potential to fill this gap, but I still feel that many young people may not feel that these spaces are “meant for them”. To be honest, there is much more available now than when I was young, but, I still believe that there are more opportunities for youth involvement that we either have not explored, or not taken advantage of. The key here is to have youth involved at the planning stage for infrastructure programs. The Milton Youth Advisory Committee has done good work in this regard, and there is more that can be accomplished if we continue to support youth development and advisory engagement. We also need to be mindful of youth in the rural areas, who face more obstacles due to distance and geography. I grew up in “the country” and needed to arrange a drive into town to meet my friends. It can be an isolating feeling, and we need to ensure that youth programs are accessible to all youth, regardless of where they live. Perhaps organizing an initiative to bring urban youth into rural areas is a good way to start bridging this gap.
In short, the answer to this question of whether current facilities and infrastructure address youth needs effectively is a combination of “yes” and “not quite”. We need to continue evaluating what we have already done to service young people, but also be honest with ourselves in asking what more we can do, and what we can do to make existing facilities more effective and accessible. I believe we are off to a good start in providing infrastructure to address youth in Milton, but we should not rest on our laurels – more can be done, and we must continue to ensure that young people have an advisory role in the development of these projects.
Chris Jewell: Part of my platform is to ensure we have more space for youth and families to come together in Milton. I would like to see us use our parks to have community gardens and fruit trees so that we could get everyone in our community involved in producing their own food. I think local produce and local production is vitally important to our environment and economy, and we should be doing what we can to encourage these activities, especially for our youth.
I would also like to see us utilize some of our resources like Mill Pond and the storm water management ponds for winter activities like hockey and skating. We have these wonderful water resources, that simply need some safety checks, and we have this amazing skating infrastructure that can be delivered to the youth totally free.
These are my ideas, and I would welcome you and your school to answer this question for me, after all, you are our youth and you are experts on the subject. Are we, as a town, meeting the needs of your and your peers? I think it’s important for you to tell each candidate the answer to this question.
Cindy Lunau: It is a start! Youth should be considered in every planning decision. This was one of my goals as Council representative on the Youth Advisory Committee for 17 years! I insisted that MYAC be invited to present their report to Council twice a year giving youth both experience and visibility. MYAC was responsible for the first skateboard park in Milton!
Question 2: As a Town Councillor, what specifically will you do in your ward to make youth feel a greater sense of belonging within the fabric of Milton?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: Making youth feel more involved and welcome in Ward one is something I am very sensitive to. There are a number of important projects on the horizon for Ward One: projects that would benefit from a youth perspective at the planning stages. Ward One also has the largest rural area, which has a special set of issues and needs for youth who have limited transit and internet access.
From a town-wide viewpoint, however, it is important to remember that the average age of a Miltonian is 34 years. This makes our youth population very important in planning the needs of our town into the next two decades, as the youth of today will form a large demographic in Milton. Planning aside, though, the importance of our youth should not be projected into the future only with an eye on when they are adults, but should be emphasized right now, as there is a great deal of opportunity for investing in development and civic engagement among our young people. Youth are in a prime position to volunteer and be engaged in civic projects, and, in turn, to gain valuable experience through such pursuits – it is a mutually beneficial endeavor. Keeping youth involved in the development and fabric of their own community is very important not only for them, but for all residents, as investments in youth development typically repay the community, as young people give back with the skills and relationships they develop through their involvement. This means providing programs and services for a wide range of ages (not just teenagers, although they deserve a special focus). Extending hours and availability of free programs and services is also a good way to broaden youth engagement – something as simple as keeping free outdoor facilities (basketball courts, skateparks, etc.) well lit and open past dark in the Spring, Summer, and Fall would provide a great deal of extra leisure and social time to young people.
More importantly, though, is the engagement of youth in the planning of programs and community spaces. The literature tells us that when youth are involved in determining and planning programs, the programs are more successful. In addition to the planning of services and programs, I feel it is especially important that young people are involved in “placemaking” for civic projects. Most parks are designed with children and adults in mind, often neglecting the preferences or needs of those in the 13 – 19 age range. How can we address this lack of focus?
A major project on the horizon for Milton is the development of civic precinct lands between Mary and Brown Streets. This will be a pedestrian square, not unlike the ones we see in the cities of Europe where people gather to interact with each other and their community, or just stroll and people-watch. Often, the congregation of young people in these types of spaces is seen as “loitering”. I believe that if youth are involved in the planning process of the Civic Precinct Lands, the space will be more user-friendly for them, and they will take an ownership role in the execution of the plans and use of the space. If we have appropriate gathering spots focused on young people, they will have a vested interest in the area and enjoy it to a greater extent.
Ultimately, my goal in involving more youth in civic processes and planning simply requires creating more opportunities and roles for them to be involved – to ensure there is a “place at the table” for them and to seriously consider their recommendations and requests, thus ensuring that they feel included and have a place of belonging in the fabric of their town.
Chris Jewell: I think, generally, we are having a problem with people in Milton, feeling excluded and left out. This also includes, our youth. We have many different cultures moving into Milton, and many different sub-communities forming. We need to be creating more opportunities for people to interact with each other, and get engaged. My platform includes cutting the red tape and streamlining the approval process involved, with participating in festivals and events. It can be very difficult and expensive to participate in events like the street festival, and it’s creating barriers to entry for immigrants and youth who may not have the finances or language skills necessary to make it through the application process. There should be members of town staff that can help, those who need it, to bring their plans to life. That definitely includes youth groups.
Again, I would also like to point to public spaces where spontaneous meetings can occur. In Burlington, for example, there are used charcoal disposal pits in many of the parks. I was lucky enough to be at Lowville Park over the long weekend and encounter a group of Syrians. We were cooking right next to each other and eventually we got to talking and sharing food together. It was a wonderful experience for all of us, and we felt like a whole community. I am a strong advocate for BBQs in the park because nothing brings people together like food. I think creating the opportunities for youth to spontaneously engage with other members of the community–just like I did with the young Syrian’s in the park that day–is extremely important to foster a sense of belonging.
I have also had many residents suggest to me, that I organize regular meetings with youth groups at our high schools. Though this is not part of my platform, I am planning to take this advice when I’m in. I think the key is listening to youth about what they need to feel a sense of belonging, more than trying to guess.
Cindy Lunau: I am proud that during my time on MYAC, the Town established Youth Week with special events & discounts, MYAC Youth Awards, and I accepted the Silver Award as a Youth Friendly Community. Sadly, two events have not survived: Teen Zone at Canada Day & the Youth Appreciation Breakfast. These activities were for all Milton youth.
In my ward, I am part of a Youth Drop-in program offered every other Friday night. It is a space where local youth can meet with friends for activities, refreshments, and both casual & serious discussions.
Question 3: Most Milton youth find themselves having to travel outside of town for a satisfactory shopping experience. Given that Milton continues to have only one (small) shopping mall within its boundaries despite being a town of over 110,000 residents, do you have any plans to incorporate something ambitious (e.g., a new shopping mall that is more youth-oriented and easily accessible) into any Town Plan or study?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: I fully understand that may youth need to travel out of town to spend a day shopping, When I was a teenager, I always had to find a drive to Erin Mills Town Center to shop – there was nothing available in Milton or the surrounding area. Now, the Toronto Premium Outlets is a bit more accessible, but still requires a drive. I love to shop, and to have a major shopping centre within central walking distance would be a dream. When my kids want to shop, we have to arrange to drive them, or help them navigate a plan for public transit to get anywhere worthwhile.
The issue with planning a shopping facility is that planning of commercial space is a complex undertaking. First, you need to identify land that is properly zoned for major commercial development, and that won’t meet opposition from nearby residents. Then you have to find a commercial partner or developer that sees income potential in developing the center – the bottom line is that they need to see the potential for making money, and numerous factors are part of this determination – location, population, average income, sustainability, rental appeal, etc.
I would very much like to support commercial shopping facilities that are located more centrally in Milton, however, I must be honest in saying that given the current trend of outdoor malls (similar to Toronto Premium Outlets) it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. What we can work towards is attracting more smaller retailers into our downtown core, and also new corporate-commercial projects like the Derry Green Business Park, and perhaps even incorporating retail spaces in the expansion of Mohawk Racetrack. Again, this is not something that the town can unilaterally implement, but we can work with corporate retail providers to make a welcoming environment to attract them.
Chris Jewell: Both retail and restaurants in needed in Milton. I would like to look at what we can do with the regulation, zoning restrictions and taxes to attract more of these types of business to come to the town.
At the moment I am not aware of any plans for the town to undertake any plans for new shopping malls. I think this is the work of private developers but I fully understand the need for a revitalized mall. It’s definitely something I will be more than happy to advocate for!
Cindy Lunau: I wish I could tell you differently, but … Retail operations are private enterprises. Sadly, experience shows that youth seem to want to travel to larger malls. Milton Mall struggles to survive – youth-based stores have not been successful.
The Milton Education Village – with higher density, large student base, transit, and retail stores will help provide some of these shopping experiences – but on a store-to-store basis. A large shopping mall is unlikely.
Question 4: It is often frustrating for Milton youth to get outside of town when a car is not an option. Many youth have to travel to a GO Station in Oakville or Burlington to get to Downtown Toronto because GO Train service is not available in Milton on weekends. Inside town, Milton youth walk, ride bicycles and take Milton Transit to get around, among others. How will your transit plan address the needs of Milton youth?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: The issue of the Go Train availability is one I understand first hand. I went to law school in downtown Toronto, and I took the Go train to get there. If I had a later-morning class, or needed to be on campus on a weekend or holiday for study group or volunteering, I either had to drive to Oakville to catch the train, or sit on a bus for 2.5 hours.
Since Go is its own independent entity, the town cannot simply dictate that train service be expanded or modified – Metrolinx is ultimately the company that will decide, based on ridership and the bottom line of profitability whether or not expansion of service will happen. What we can do at council, however, is continue to apply pressure for expansion of services and advocate for the needs of all residents, including our youth. It is beneficial to have fewer cars on the road and public transit is the key to reducing traffic gridlock, carbon emissions, and overall improve road safety and environmental impact. We can also work with Metrolinx by presenting ourselves as a reasonable and eager partner in the development of new train stations, so that they will be more inclined to work with us and see Milton as a cooperative and beneficial partner for investment.
With respect to transit within town, there is a balance that we need to achieve. Obviously, walking and biking in the summer months is great for people of all ages to encourage exercise and reduce vehicular traffic, but not so great in the wintertime. Here is where local and regional transit can really step in to fill a need for those who would rather not (or cannot) drive. Transit has been a contentious issue for the town, as it needs to have some profitable incentive (i.e. we cannot allow ourselves to go bankrupt providing it). I am not an expert on local transit, so I believe it is important to engage the research and recommendations of consultants to assist in determining the best mix of transit vehicles (buses, ride-sharing, etc.) and routes that will have the most impact and benefit the most residents, while making financial sense for the community. Many communities have already undertaken different experimental systems, and we can look to see how those have worked, and how they could be modified for implementation in Milton. In Belleville, for example, riders can essentially “hail” a bus using an app on their phones the same way they would an Uber or other ride-sharing service. The software updates the customized bus route in real time so that the circuit achieves maximum efficiency by accommodating the most riders by making as many stops as possible on the route. This type of application could work very well in Milton.
Overall, any municipality that wants to be taken seriously must have adequate public transit. The key for us is to find cost-effective and user-friendly options that make a difference for residents of all ages.
Chris Jewell: I would definitely like to look into what we can do to get better weekend train service. I am not going to lie and say I know what that is at the moment but I will certainly be looking into it.
In terms of in town, the transit system is problematic at the moment. In order to maintain existing service levels, the town is recommending a significant tax increase. There is also very low ridership levels on the bus. What I think we need to do, is implement a program like Innisfil has, where they use subsidized Uber instead of buses. Essentially, an Uber car will come when you call it, pick you up and take you where you want to go, for a flat fee that is equivalent to what you pay for the bus. Not only will this provide a faster, more versatile, and overall cheaper service, we will own all the data, which means we can look at introducing buses to heavily traveled areas.
As for our buses, I think we should use them to connect to other hubs, such as the Lakeshore go line, and the Mississauga transit system. It’s something that we need to investigate and would likely require approval of other regions and municipalities, but it should be achievable. Both ideas together will allow far more flexibility on getting you to your destination.
Cindy Lunau: I have always been supportive of Milton Transit and Youth-fares for Transit. All-day GO service for Milton remains a priority for all of us … and I have been part of many meetings with Metrolinx requesting this. Sadly, CN is not cooperating by giving GO trains additional rail time.
I supported the Town’s request for Provincial funds for a pilot project for north/south connection to Burlington & Oakville. We’ll see if it survives in the new Provincial government’s budget. I wish more people would consider taking the GO Bus. I have. It is comfortable and dependable.
Question 5: After your four-year term as Town Councillor ends, what do you hope your impact on Milton youth will be?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: After my four-year term, my hope is that young people will feel more relevant to the political process. The average age of a Milton councilor is around 64 years of age. There is currently only one woman on council and a very limited number of visible minorities. My hope is that, as a younger councillor and a woman, more young people will have identified with me and seen themselves and their concerns reflected in my advocacy. We know that young people want younger leaders that understand the struggles faced by those who still have decades of professional and family work ahead of them (rather than those who are about to retire, or already have). I will feel that with a more relevant representative, the youth of Milton will feel their voice is stronger. One of my goals in running in this election was to get more young people interested and involved in politics. Typically, young people have the lowest voter turnout, and this is something that needs to change. We should not expect our parents and senior citizens to do the work for us, and their interests are not always the same as ours, so it is important that there is an appropriate balance of representation. I hope that I have an impact in encouraging more young people, and especially more young women, to become involved in politics.
Chris Jewell: I sincerely hope that after 4 years, youth will have better access to transit, more places to hang out (for free), more opportunities to get outside and feel far more engaged in the community. I also sincerely hope, that they will feel Milton is a more diverse and inclusive community where everyone is welcome.
Cindy Lunau: You grow up so very fast! A former MYAC member is now a Doctor in Milton! Another is an employee in the Mayor’s Office at the Town.
I hope that our young people will choose to stay in Milton. And I hope that affordable housing and employment opportunities will allow them to do so!
Question 6: What is a fun fact about you?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: A fun fact about me: I had a pet tarantula named Gavroche when I was in high school. I also love musical theatre and participated in high school productions, and as a young adult in community productions. I miss it a lot!
Chris Jewell: I met and spoke with the Queen of England because one of the organizers of her visit spotted me walking my corgi. She specifically wanted to speak with me about my dog because was extremely handsome.
My friend in university ate bacon 3 times a day but saved all the fat. No idea why he did it. I was extremely broke in university but really wanted to get my family Christmas presents, so I bought a bunch of lye and turned his bacon fat into homemade soap… it was, basically what you’d expect a bar of bacon fat soap to be.
I also lived for two years in South Korea and got to product test smart TVs way before they were even a thing in Canada.
Cindy Lunau: Oh my. – A checkered youth. Gordon Lightfoot dedicated a set to me. Race car legend Stirling Moss took me for a ride. Bobby Kennedy told me he wasn’t going to run for US President (audio tape proves this).
More recently – I started the GoFundMe page to honour Zach Plater and Adam Sura raising over $24,000 for scholarships. My fruit preserves (jams & peaches, etc.) win prizes at Fall Fairs. I am a mother, grandmother, and Gramma Cindy to local kids.
And outside of Council, I am the local stripper (furniture restoration work)
Question 7: Where can Milton youth learn more about you and your campaign for Town Councillor?
Mahmood Chaudhry: NO RESPONSE.
Kristina Tesser Derksen: You can learn more about me and me and my campaign by visiting my website: www.votekristina.com, or my Facebook (Kristina Tesser Derksen), Twitter (@kristinatesser), and Instagram (kristinatesserderksen) accounts. Or send me an email email@example.com, or send me a text or give me a call: 905-691-8988.
Chris Jewell: the best place is on my website chrisjewell.ca or just give me a call at 647.563.9266
Cindy Lunau: www.cindylunau.ca Facebook cindylunauward1 firstname.lastname@example.org 905-691-3795
The 2018 Milton municipal election will be held on October 22. Visit MiltonVotes.ca for more information.
Image Source: Metroland Media