BY HUNTER CULHANE
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 2 is located in the northeast part of town. It is bordered by Derry Road to the south and Regional Road 25 (Ontario Street) to the west. Public Schools in Ward 2 include Robert Baldwin, Sam Sherratt, E.W. Foster, Bruce Trail, and Chris Hadfield.
There are no incumbent councillors running in Ward 2.
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. 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?
John Challinor: I believe the current Town of Milton matrix of athletic, recreational and social activity-based infrastructure meets the requirements of many youth. However, I am not convinced that it meets the needs of most young people in our community today. That’s why I have called for a Core Services Review, if elected, that will engage Town staff and all Miltonians, including our youth, in a discussion, and later, a decision about the provision of infrastructure and services that are most commonly desired affordably and sustainably, moving forward.
Sarah Jensen: I believe our current town infrastructure has greatly improved over the past 10 years in terms of meeting the needs of our youth. We have added a large, more modern library, a beautiful sports complex and many parks. I think that as we move forward in our growth we need to always keep these services as well as our greenspaces in mind. These are all important investments in our future.
Galen Naidoo Harris: I feel that we have a solid foundation in place but it’s important to keep building on what we have and we’re certainly lacking in some areas. I’d like to see us work on things like a reduction in the average number of portables at our schools, a review of the service area and level for public resources like our sports centres and libraries and we should look at exploring commercial and public avenues to make more entertainment options are available for young people in town.
Giles vanderHolt: The short answer is yes. The vision for Milton, amung other things, is to incorporate a healthy lifestyle for Miltonians. Milton has created many new parks and community centres to accommodate the athletic needs of our youth. The latest currently being built is the community centre located on Main St. just east of Tremaine. Some of our older parks are going through a revitilization process transforming aging parklands into vibrant areas that better accommodate the needs to the local residences. For example Kinsmen Park on Woodward revamped unused parkland into two baseball diamonds and took a delapitated tennis court and installed multiple basket ball courts and a water pad which are used quite heavily. However, having said that, the town is lacking in the upkeep of our sport fields. Many soccer fields are unplayable in Milton. Also, there is a growing rep baseball community that are suffering from lack of professional baseball diamonds. There are only two that have an actual mound and teams are finding it very difficult in getting equal time for those fields. We need to build more.
Michael Vertolli: We are currently not effective. Our community is behind in soccer fields and baseball fields. The town is spending 550 thousand dollars on Sam Sharrett upgrade and no plans to add a 3rd baseball field. We need more fields for our kids. The community centers are being built to accommodate the growing amount. We do also have enough Library in the Town. As you know Sherwood is building a new community centre and library and fire station.
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?
John Challinor: I would like to see the establishment of a one-stop guide on the Town’s website that lists athletic, recreational and social activity-based services for young Miltonians, volunteer and job opportunities for them in our community and assistance they can seek out when they are in need, for whatever reason. This guide would include Town services as well as youth-oriented services provided by private- and non-profit-sector organizations in the community, including the local bowling alley, cinema, swimming academy, etc. The biggest challenge we face today is poor communications between the Town and its citizens. Good communications will go a long way towards young people having a greater sense of belonging in the community as it grows and as they age, regardless of their individual needs.
Sarah Jensen: As a Town Councillor I would always keep youth in our perspective when making decisions for our community. I have raised 5 children in our community and understand the needs and frustrations of our youth living in a growing yet isolated community. As you mentioned in your email, the youth of today are tomorrow’s voters. You are our future citizens and we need to keep that future secure. I am concerned about the lack of rental housing available in our community. When young people decide to move out of their parents’ home they often move into a rental unit in their same community. This is not an easy task in Milton. There are very few rental apartment buildings and many basement apartments are not up to fire code and could be unsafe. This means our young people are forced to move to another community to live independently. I have seen this with my own children. They have loved growing up here but are unable to live independently in their own home town. I feel that council needs to explore encouraging the building of rental unit apartment buildings.
Galen Naidoo Harris: The most important thing for me is to make sure that the youth of Milton are aware that their concerns are important to me too. It’s so easy and so common these days for young people to be cut out of politics, but that’s not the approach I want to take at all. I’m interested in representing all Miltonians, not just the ones who can vote for me. I’ve already sat down to speak with a 15 year old young man from Bishop Reding and I’m happy to listen to anyone else, young or old, who wants to be heard.
Giles vanderHolt: There is an increaseing turnover of younger families moving into the older more established areas of Milton. Many of the local parks have remained the same for decades. I want to upgrade these parks so that they cater to different age levels of our youth. By that I mean including basketball courts, mini soccer fields etc. Also, our youth need access to convenient bike racks throughout Milton. There are only a few and some are in substandard condition. My focus is to substantially increase the cycling infrastructure in Milton that is safe and enjoyable.
Michael Vertolli: Continue to lead the way and being active in my community with Milton Car Show, The Milton Santa Claus Parade, The Holiday Street Event. MADD Halton. I currently coach soccer for last 8 years. I welcome all youths to join me and get out in community.
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?
John Challinor: I am in agreement that Bentall-Kennedy has done a generally poor job of attracting and retaining a range of retailers, including those that appeal to young people, at Milton Mall. I was a member of Milton Council between 1991 and 2006 and was part of the Official Plan of 1997 and Retail Study discussion and decision that created a Central Business District where Milton Mall could thrive. As the community grew, Milton Mall ownership failed to take advantage of the planning opportunity it was given. As other retail nodes developed across the community, Milton Mall also failed to deploy the geographical competitive advantage it enjoys, that being in the centre of the community. However, to be fair to Bentall-Kennedy and other national retail property owners, online retailing has changed bricks-and-mortar retailing forever, with global competitors emerging like Alibaba, Amazon, eBay and Wayfair, for example. Despite my criticism of Milton Mall, if elected, I am prepared to continue to help it and all other retailers in our community become more competitive through a number of initiatives, including the establishment of a one-stop online guide on the Milton Chamber of Commerce and Milton Downtown Business Improvement Area websites to help all Miltonians, including youth, know of all of the local shopping and services choices in our community. As part of the Core Services Review I am calling for, if elected, an updated Retail Study will be requested that determines what additional retail presence is needed in our community, moving forward, including mall, big box, plaza, node or street-level options.
Sarah Jensen: I have thought a great deal about the shopping in Milton since I have often had to drive my daughters to Burlington to shop with friends! I think Milton Mall is still an ideal location but needs more youth friendly attractions. I think that several stores are great for young people but encouraging more youth friendly fast food stores to open there would help. When my kids were young there was no bowling alley or movie theatre in Milton so these things have improved for youth but more entertainment would keep our young people in town. I have always thought an all ages nightclub would work in Milton.
Galen Naidoo Harris: I would certainly be open to integrating an examination of our current mall and retail options into future town plans or studies.
Giles vanderHolt: You are right! Milton is currently not a destination locale. We suffer from lack of retail and entertainment facilities. Right now Milton is going through a rapid growth period, but the focus will be on ‘mixed use developments’. Malls are dead. Mixed use will see multi-storied buildings with retail at the bottom. This is the direction you will see in future developments. Bricks and mortar retail outlets may be a thing of the past as the general public prefer the online shopping experience. So this is a hard thing to predict if we will see more retail in Milton. But not for lack of trying as Milton will continue to zone areas for retail.
Michael Vertolli: I will strive to have fortune 500 companies to come to Milton so we dont have to travel outside of the town.
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?
John Challinor: Whether the rider is a young person, a worker or a senior, our community is under-serviced by Go Transit and Milton Transit. I have had the good fortune to have a personal friendship with Greg Gormick, Canada’s foremost authority on commercial and passenger rail service, including public transit. Greg and I discussed GO Transit and Milton Transit last spring and he then wrote a think-piece about how GO Transit could better serve Milton. He is currently writing a similar piece about how Milton Transit could better serve Miltonians. The GO Transit piece is posted on my website, www.johnchallinor.ca. The Milton Transit article will be posted there next week. What Greg and I are currently contemplating is the value of a hybrid system that deploys buses and Town-subsidized cabs and UBER and LYFT vehicles in a matrix that allows both rural and urban Miltonians to have 24/7 access to public transit. As ridership builds in certain areas of the community, the transit option would move to a bus-based system. The hybrid model we are noodling through would allow young Miltonians to get to and from school, get to and from work and get to and from recreational and social engagements safely and affordably.
Sarah Jensen: . I feel very strongly that the town’s bus system needs to be looked at in more detail. There are many empty buses going around town all day which is an inefficient use of town resources. Students use the buses but the stops are not always convenient to schools or at times that would help young people get to part time jobs etc. Something that would benefit not only young people but also senior citizens would be shuttles to Oakville and Burlington and Mississauga. My oldest daughter went to university in St Catharines and could take a bus from her school to Burlington but then would have to wait in Burlington for a ride the rest of the way home. It would have been great if she could have shuttled right to Milton. Some senior citizens need specialized doctor visits in Oakville and need to take an expensive taxi when a bus would be a more affordable option for them. I think this type of service would allow citizens of Milton to feel less isolated.
Galen Naidoo Harris: I definitely share these concerns. I have relied on GO Transit to get to and from work daily for long periods over the last couple of years and up until recently any time I wanted to spend time with friends out of town public transit was my only real option. I will apply pressure to the provincial government to expand GO service in town and as more of a long-term plan I would like to examine the possibility of integrating the Milton Transit system with the other transit systems in our region to provide an alternative to GO Transit.
Giles vanderHolt: Transit is essential for any municipality. We will see a spike in transit growth as the demands for transit grows, specifically when Laurier university and the Derry green business park are completed. As Milton evolves and grows, so will our transit. In terms of all day access to Milton GO train service, Metro Lynx made a statement earlier this year that they will not look at all day GO service until 2040. I sympathise with the seeming lack of progress on this issue, but it is for not lack of trying.
Michael Vertolli: I will strive to have Milton Transit expand to other municipalities and to other Malls like the Premium Outlet Mall. This will enable youths to get around in this town.
Question 5: After your four-year term as Town Councillor ends, what do you hope your impact on Milton youth will be?
John Challinor: I had the privilege to be on Milton Council when we had to deal with the Province of Ontario’s dictate in the 1990s that our community grow in the way we are experiencing today. While I loved the Milton of those days, shopping choices were few, recreational and social options were somewhat limited and local youth had to leave the community when they became adults because housing choices were minimal. Today, we have more of these things but living in Milton is becoming less and less affordable. I want to create an environment in Milton where property taxation is affordable, where Town services are affordable and where housing options are affordable. And, I want it to be sustainable, such that the community never returns to the situation we are in today — 5 percent property tax increases, a housing supply that isn’t meeting local demand and Town services that are not ideally matched to current and future needs.
Sarah Jensen: After my term I hope that my impact on youth would be that they feel like their concerns are taken seriously. I would love to become involved in the Milton Youth Advisory Committee. This is an excellent opportunity for young people to have their say at council.
Galen Naidoo Harris: I hope our youth is more engaged with local politics and that their concerns are better reflected in the public policy decisions of the last four years.
Giles vanderHolt: A positive one, with hopes that our youth also become more engaged in their town by helping out with our local charities and not hesitant in coming forward with any great ideas they would like to present to council.
Michael Vertolli: The impact is on infrastructure within our town and traffic signaling to allow traffic and widening of roads and have affordable property taxes.
Question 6: What is a fun fact about you?
John Challinor: I attended Milton District High School, as did my two children. I served as Treasurer and a member of MDHS Student Council and I was also Co-Editor of the MDHS Astra Year Book. My wife and I are MDHS high-school sweethearts. I am one of Milton’s local historians and the co-author of three high-quality books of local history. I am an old car guy (triple-black 1972 Ford LTD convertible) and a die-hard Hamilton Tiger-Cats football fan.
Sarah Jensen: A fun fact about me is that I am learning American Sign Language. I am a local realtor and hope that this new language will help me communicate better with the deaf community in Milton.
Galen Naidoo Harris: I graduated from MD myself back in 2012 and if you’d asked me then if I’d ever expected to be here running for Town Council today I’d have told you that you were nuts.
Giles vanderHolt: I sit on the TEDXMilton and artsmilton committee, I am a photographer, runner and cyclist. I follow global politics/news and I host Salsa in Milton at Rad Brothers once a month. I also volunteer at many local charity events and local and international cycling events.
Michael Vertolli: Fun fact about me is I dressed up at Big Brothers Big Sister event as Captain America.
Question 7: Where can Milton youth learn more about you and your campaign for Town Councillor?
John Challinor: I encourage MDHS students to either drop by my website, www.johnchallinor.ca, visit and like me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JohnChallinorW2 or reach out to me at 905-878-7638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Jensen: My website is http://www.sarahjensen.ca
Galen Naidoo Harris: They can check out my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages: https://www.facebook.com/GalenNaidooHarrisWard2/, https://twitter.com/GalenNHarris, https://www.instagram.com/galenharris1/
Giles vanderHolt: As I don’t have a website, your only option is to read my brochure : )
Michael Vertolli: http://www.michaelvertolli.ca. Facebook, Instagram. LinkedIn
The 2018 Milton municipal election will be held on October 22. Visit MiltonVotes.ca for more information.
Note: One candidate, Roy Zwolman, was unavailable for contact and is not listed in this article.
Image Source: Metroland Media