If you’ve just signed up for #30Days2Vote and haven’t received tasks from earlier in the month – get caught up by clicking through the challenges for each day below!
As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Kelly Elliot, who is currently running for City Councillor in Thames Centre.
My name is Kelly Elliott and I am running for Ward 1 Councillor in Thames Centre. I was born and raised on a family farm in Thorndale and I am now raising my family here. I want to play an active role in creating the best possible community that our residents are proud to call home. Going door-to-door, and with my work in I Love Thorndale, our residents have made it clear that they feel they have lost their voice in the municipality. It is my desire to bring the voice back and bring transparency back into our municipal office.
Q: Would you share how you have participated in your community?
A: My parents have instilled in me the importance of community involvement and making a positive impact in your community. I am the co-founder and co-facilitator of I Love Thorndale. At ILT, we strive to bring residents from all aspects of our community – non-profit organization volunteers, residents, business owners, etc. – to one table to discuss, and take action, on ideas that we believe will better our community. Through our work, we have brought to life such ideas as our Welcome Package for new community members. As well, both of my children attend West Nissouri Public School in Thorndale. They are both involved in baseball in the summer in Thorndale and hockey in the winter in Dorchester, as well I play ball hockey in the women’s Girls With Balls league in Thorndale.
Q: What do you believe is the role is of a city councillor/mayor?
A: When you elect a councillor to represent you, you are choosing a person who you trust to have the best interests of your community in hand. You are choosing someone who you believe will listen intently to your concerns, and take those same concerns to council and represent you. You are electing someone who you know, shares the same passion as you do for the place we choose to live.
Q: What qualities do you exhibit that make you a good fit for the role?
A: I come from a unique perspective in Ward 1. I was born and raised in the community and now, I am raising my own family here. I respect and understand the heritage of the old West Nissouri Township and I believe our rural agricultural roots are ones we need to embrace and promote as our ward begins to grow and welcome new residents. As we are welcoming those new families into our community, such as mine, we are allowing growth – and our community to thrive. We have the best of both worlds here, and I know that I can represent both with the representative that we deserve.
As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Anna Hopkins, who is currently running for London City Councillor in ward 9.
Q: Would you share how you have participated in your community?
A: My husband Bill and I came to London from Mississauga nearly 30 years ago to raise a family and build a business. Prior to the move, I had worked for a social service agency, and for lawyers, engineers and developers in Toronto and Mississauga. I had also become involved in Hazel McCallion’s mayoralty campaign.
In London, with two young boys to raise, I took time out of the workforce for a few years but quickly immersed myself in community volunteer work, serving as treasurer of a pre-school, on a building committee for a day care centre, as treasurer for Byron Home and School Association, and on the board of the Byron United Soccer Club.
As the boys grew older, I returned to work as a legal secretary for two local law firms. Then, as our family grew, I joined my husband’s business Forest City Gas, Heating and Air Conditioning Company as part owner. This allowed me to work from home while caring for the newest addition. Later, I sold my interest in the business and began instructing at a local fitness centre until my father’s ailing health required my ongoing care. Since then, I have worked at Featherfield’s Bird and Garden Store.
Q: In what capacity, have you been involved in politics at the municipal level within London?
A: While this is my first run for municipal office, I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t involved in local politics. While living in Mississauga I volunteered for Hazel McCallion’s successful mayoralty campaign. Later, in Byron, my volunteer activities brought me into direct contact with government, particularly my participation on a Home and School working group at a time when the Provincial Government wanted to do away with PTA’s and introduce Parent Councils in all the schools.
Then, in 1999, I joined with others to form the “Save Reservoir Hill” group which attempted first to stop and then contain an oversized development. Although we were unanimously supported for ten years by the city councils of the day, it is the current council which turned its back on the citizens of London and allowed the developer free rein with a natural heritage treasure. That betrayal is a major factor in my motivation to run for office. I understand all too well the importance of each and every vote on council.
I have worked with the London Advisory Committee on Heritage (LACH) and other volunteers to erect a plaque on Reservoir Hill commemorating the Skirmish on the hill in 1812. I served on a committee for London’s Amazing Tree Quest. I continue to serve on the Urban League where I have held a number of essential positions. I campaigned for former controller, Gina Barber. I helped to coordinate Civics 101, a series of meetings to educate citizens on how our city works. I have helped organize all-candidates meetings with “Women: Our Votes Count.” This spring I worked hard with the newly formed Byron Community Association to hold a very successful first “Byron is Beautiful” event this summer.
Q: What qualities do you exhibit that make you a good fit for the role?
A: A good councillor needs to have a commitment to the community she serves, a willingness to consult and listen both to her constituents and the professionals and experts, the determination to follow through even when the going gets tough, to work collaboratively with other councillors, to appreciate the art of the possible.
I believe I have those qualities. From my experience with Reservoir Hill, I learned a lot about planning and development, about the Ontario Municipal Board, how to work with city hall staff, the relevant legislation and processes that govern decision-making. I also learned about the importance of doing one’s homework. From my volunteer work in different organizations, I have learned much about the community and city in which I live and the importance of cooperation and team work and about the impact people working together can have.
The various jobs I have held have allowed me to view issues from different points of view, to pay attention to detail while not losing sight of the big picture. An as a small business partner, I appreciate the importance of good customer service and the bottom line.
Finally, having raised three sons to adulthood makes me appreciative of the services that a city provides—from schools, to transit, to sports, to culture and the arts, to meaningful work and an opportunity to be involved—the kind of services that make a city attractive to families, to individuals, to business. Those are services we need to protect and enhance.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to have more women in politics?
A: There’s no doubt that women are underrepresented in government at every level. Although we constitute 52% of the population, only recently have we reached what some see as the “tipping point” of one-third of councillors being female. It is to be sincerely hoped that we do not lose that in the coming election.
Incorporating women’s experience is crucial in city design and governance. It is women who still have primary responsibility for care and feeding of men and children, for arranging appointments and recreation, for looking after aging relatives, for meeting the teacher and getting the kids safely to school. And they do this while trying to balance household budgets and holding down jobs. And much of the volunteer work is done by women.
That means that the layout of the city, getting from home to school to work to day care to shopping to ball diamonds is critically important. And you need to get places safely since women are subject to dangers that men are less likely to face. Sidewalks, good lighting, reliable transportation, walkability for oneself and children are critical for woman-friendly development.
These experiences are important to have at the table when considering budgets and development applications and civic works and social programs. A city that works for women needs a critical mass of women as part of its decision-making. And it’s good for men, too!
So, don’t vote for me because I am a woman; rather, vote for me because I have the experiences, the understandings and the skills that make for a complete community which works for young and old, for women and men.
You may vote for men, too. Just not in my ward.
928 Springbank Drive
London, ON N6K 1A5
Our #30Days2Vote challenge is designed to help voters flex their civic engagement muscles. Follow along with us, participating in small, easy-to-complete, daily tasks that will help you prepare for the election.
Spend 30 days learning a little more about the responsibilities of municipal government, the candidates running in your area and their platforms. Gain the confidence you need to head to the polls on October 27.
Much like a 30 days fitness program, you may find yourself more advanced than a particular day’s activity. You may already know some of the information or have completed some of the tasks and that’s great! If this is the case, consider reaching out to someone in your community – a neighbour, a friend, or a coworker – and help them to become more informed and engaged that day.
On October 27 we want to raise the bar on voter turnout. We want you to feel more confident in your vote and have fun along the way!
Our #30Days2Vote challenge is open to anyone and everyone who would like to participate, regardless of gender identity.
Download and share the calendar and poster!
Get caught up!
If you’ve just signed up, and haven’t received tasks from earlier in the month, click through the daily challenge emails here.
As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Donna Szpakowski, who is currently running for London City Councillor in ward 7.
Q: Would you share how you have participated in your community?
A: I have acted as a community builder and advocate for many years – I like to think of it as community entrepreneurism. I have been a member of the Hyde Park Business Association (HPBA) for over six years in a variety of roles that include secretary, vice president and current president. During this time, I have advocated for businesses and the community on matters pertaining to impending zone changes and other concerns or issues related to the area.
Over the last four years, I have worked with the Hyde Park Road Widening Committee; a collective group of community members along with representation from the City of London (Project Mangers, Engineers, Planners, etc) to mitigate the impacts of the Hyde Park Road widening scheduled to conclude in 2015. Working with the HPBA, we were successful, by working with the incumbent Councillor of the day, to have the construction process reduced from three to two years. I am also working with this committee, the City and the Hyde Park Business Association with discussions for future visions and enhancements in the Hyde Park/Gainsborough Road area.
On another note, after hearing that many children cannot go outside for recess in the winter without appropriate boots, I worked collaboratively with the HPBA Association, local businesses and the community to launch the “HPBA Annual Boot Drive”. The Association has collected and donated to Mission Services over 600 pairs of boots – helping to keep toes warm.
As Chair of the Santa Clause Parade Committee, we have participated, since the inception of the Hyde Park Santa Parade with a float garnering help with the design and decorating from Oakridge Secondary School students while helping them gain volunteer hours.
And! After, two years in the making, I worked closely with the Hyde Park Business Association, collaborating with local businesses, the City of London and many other stakeholders to launch London’s first Outdoor Community Piano dubbed the “Piano Project” this spring.
Apart from the Hyde Park Business Association, and a big believer in entrepreneurial endeavors, I know that self-employed individuals / families and small business are going to be the economic backbone to London’s recovery. Hence my recent past involvement for 3 years in the “Send a Kid to Camp Business Basics” program designed to raise money to send kids (who otherwise would not have the opportunity) to attend the Junior Achievement London’s summer camp program. It is inspiring to help light that “entrepreneurial spark” in the youngest and brightest!
Partnerships are key, and as such I work with community-based organizations such as the NorWest Optimists to support our youth and families. I am working with the Goodwill Career Centre (Sherwood Forest Mall) employing youth, and I am currently collaborating with the NorthWest London Resource Centre regarding youth employment placement programs with businesses in North West London. As well, I have been in discussions with Over 55 as it relates to their programming and getting our older demographic to work.
I sit on the marketing committee with the London & Region Fundraising Executives (LRFRE), which supports the nonprofit sector by promoting a standard of ethical practices and code of conduct for those working in the fund raising field. For the past three years, my business has and continues to be a sponsor of this organization to support the important work that they do both within the sector and in the community.
After 14 years, I continue to be a member of the London & Middlesex Child Safety Committee led by the Middlesex London Health Unit; helping to support young, growing families with pertinent programs and information so as to promote healthy, safe environments and communities to thrive. This committee has a seat and voice on the City of London’s Community Safety and Crime Prevention Advisory Committee (CSCP)
Lastly, involved in 2007/2008 as part of the organizing team, I continue to work with London’s Clean and Green initiative as Captain in the Hyde Park area.
Q: What most influenced your decision to run?
A: I want real progress for Londoners. I have a passion for London – for what it was, but really, for what it can be. I have a grassroots sense of business, community and neighbourhood and love working collaboratively with people to get results. Working with the community is not new for me. At this juncture, I know that I can make a difference with purposeful leadership that listens to the voices of Londoners, the City Staff and experts while making and influencing decisions that will propel London in a forward direction. Being a catalyst for positive change is a huge motivator.
Also, the current atmosphere of our City Council; I have spoken to many Londoners who are very frustrated with politics, politicians and Council’s stifling and waffling for fear of doing new things. With City Council at the heart of the community, elected officials must work together, responsibly, with integrity and respect amongst themselves. I believe a great Councilor is one who engages, listens and inspires citizens in their wards and in London – and are tuned into the voices, ideas and opinions of the people. Decisions made by Council, should be decisions reflective of the citizens/taxpayers, even if it doesn’t reflect the personal opinion of the Councilor. I am running because I am that Councilor.
Q: If elected, what are your top three priorities for the City of London?
A: People are my priority, and as such:
It has been recognized that in London, the recovery from the current economic situation will rely heavily on the entrepreneurial endeavors of existing, new, and small/medium businesses. In keeping with the idea that London must be business friendly, London must be open for business for all sectors, and must find ways to nurture and grow these enterprises. Businesses pay taxes, they employ people and in turn they will represent the natural progression and growth of a stimulated local economy, if appropriately supported.
Business is a key element in my platform, supporting local business by removing red tape, speeding up the planning processes around new development, creating incentive programs that encourage businesses to build, expand, locate and stay in London.
It’s about our community and the building of safe, transportation friendly, culturally rich neighbourhoods. In doing so, we must also look at affordable housing and address current issues while working collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a strategy for safe, inclusive housing that embraces diversity and is accessible to all who need it.
A thriving community and business scape will create Jobs, this coupled with job creation strategies for all ages and demographics to attract and retain minds both young and old.
Other community issues that people have shared include transit (more of it, with timed transfers), safe cycling, and weekly garbage pickups.
Q: What is your vision for London?
A: My vision for London over the next 20 years is a vibrant city that attracts and retains talented and creative minds. I am excited that with the unveiling of the proposed London Plan came a goal and a vision made up of thousands of voices. The London Plan recognizes that we need to invest in people, infrastructure, growth and transportation in sustainable ways so as to support new and existing businesses, which will create jobs, create healthy and satisfying living spaces, and generate tourism as we build a prosperous London.
I see a busy, bustling downtown (yes, with food trucks!) that attracts Londoners from outside the core and newcomers from outside the city. A revitalized city that builds upwards and inwards to reduce development costs and where people can work, live and visit with various mobility and active transportation options, a destination for good food, shopping, and entertainment, and art.
I believe one of London’s greatest assets is the Thames River; a landmark for all of SW Ontario and potential destination place. Let’s look at lessons learned from other cities. Let’s get the dam repaired and the water flowing. A great start is a clean river with a working dam to bring back rowing and other water-related sports, with a revitalized riverfront – London’s gem to attract and inspire tourism, sports, and community spaces.
Q: What sets you apart from other candidates?
A: I live, work and play in wards 7 and 8 and have spent many years working together with community members and stakeholders at a grassroots level. I don’t just say “collaboration” – I do it, while fostering leadership and community building to make things happen.
I truly listen. This is a skill. I think that your voice is important and needs to count, not just at election time while the thrust is on – but at all times. I believe that RESPECT is a big word. It needs to start with your councilor who should set an example to embrace diversity, both on council and in all of London.
I know I will be a strong and effective voice for Ward 7 on council because I already have been. In recent years, as a private citizen, I’ve gone to bat for Ward 7 with great results. I am confident that once elected I will bring about positive results for the Ward and London as a whole.
A proud Anglophone from Quebec, my family and I made northwest London our home 17 years ago. I live with my husband John and daughter Alexis, who always supports me in my many community commitments. I also have three older children, John, Kelly and Lindsay, who live in Cambridge, Ontario.