Women: We Are Worth the Fight

Women: We Are Worth the Fight

i May 1st No Comments by

On October 9th 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot at 15 years old for fighting back against a group of individuals who demanded she not have the right to education. Malala was not shot because she went to school, many other girls who went to school were not targeted, it was her want for more that left her with a bullet through her head. It was her ability to see that she was smart, that she could be successful, and that she was not afraid to strive for greatness that made her so scary, men felt the need to shoot her down- literally.

The shooting left Malala, a young and innocent girl, in critical condition. If I had to guess, the point of the shooting was to kill her, but her being in a coma was something the Taliban could settle for, just so long as they showed the rest of the young women that these were the repercussions of standing up for your rights and trying to be heard. We know the rest of the story; Malala did not die. She went on to do great things and be the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why is this story relevant? We live in a society where women have education right?

That is only part of the struggle.

It can be scary, as a woman, to try to reach for positions of power- even in places like Canada and America. We saw in this last presidential election, as Hilary Clinton thought she would be making her way to a party with a roof top that looked like “the glass was shattering” as she became the first female president, her world shattered as the T.V.’s announced Donald Trump’s name instead. But even if we don’t always come out on the other side and even if things don’t always go the way we want, isn’t it not worth a shot?

It is crucial that women strive to build themselves foundations in politics because women are half of the population, thus it only makes sense they are represented when it comes to the world we live in and the laws that dictate how we can behave. There are so many issues in our world, like abortion, that women should be on the forefront of, and instead men who will never have to deal with these issues are the main people deciding what can and what cannot be done. Women are just as capable, just as smart, and just as educated in relation to politics, yet “when asked would you consider running for office in Canada?”, 18% of males responded yes while only 12% of females did.

Women and men, they can both do similar jobs. I am sure both men and women are equally qualified with the right amount of education and knowledge. The question is, is it worth fighting for?

For Malala, education and the right to be heard, was worth fighting for. And even though her situation is not of the same severity, it is no different than women standing up for themselves in the developed parts of the world to be heard and to not be silenced by politicians who want to take the world back to times without funding of necessities for women.

The Taliban threatened Malala, so she could feel as though she was not capable of creating change. And although all men do not do this in the world we live in today, some do and it is important that women do not feel as though they are not capable of change. Women are- just like men are. The Taliban thought they shut down Malala when the bullet went through her head, little did they know, that bullet was what woke her up. That bullet was the reason she could go on and receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

All women are capable of great things, especially when it comes to the world of politics. No matter what pressures are still present today in the 21st century, women pushing back and striving for more- just like Malala did- will eventually lead them to a pot of gold called freedom, equality, and greatness.

My name is Lujane Al-Azem and I am one of the candidates for Ward 5 in the 2017 LYAC elections. I attend A.B. Lucas Secondary School and love to participate in extracurricular activities including Model United Nations, the Muslim Student Association, and Relay for Life. It is such a pleasure to be part of organizations that wish to provide youth the chance to be celebrated and heard.

Why do we need more women in politics?

i May 1st No Comments by

Why do we need more women in politics? I remember this question being strikingly addressed by my business law professor. His words struck a chord, especially in light of some of the recent events that have occurred across the border.

He said, more women are needed in politics, because a diversity of opinion is needed on the political stage. When issues such as women’s labour force participation rate are debated, we need women representatives who can speak up and fight for the best course of action.

An age-old debate exists, calling to question the fairness of such affirmative action. The best candidate for the situation should be chosen, it is said, regardless of gender.

Yet it is our individual experiences that may make us a better fit for a position than some others. It is a fact that that being born a certain gender, race or class, shapes our experiences. An Aboriginal woman may never experience the privilege that a white woman was born to, and that same white woman may never get the chances afforded to her male counterpart. Each individuals’ struggle to live thus defines them.

I say all this, not to set anyone’s backs up, or debate privilege, but to state a simple fact: Every individual’s experiences matter. And they matter even more so on the political stage. When issues are debated, decisions are made, and laws are passed, they affect everyone. If such decisions affect you, would you not want to have a voice in their making?

Currently in Canada, as of 2015 statistics, women make up 50% of the population but only have 25% representation (1). And women’s involvement in the labour force has stalled at 82% compared to 91% for men (2). Such problems are not restricted to being an equality and equity issue, they have economic and social impact. The more women that take up position in the political arena – collaborating on decisions made by women for women, the greater the overall economy will do. The working mother who struggles to reintegrate into the work force after having a child; the Aboriginal woman who has not received similar access to education and other resources that many may take for granted, all of them will have a greater chance of success. And their success will translate into the success of their families.

It makes economic sense, it makes social sense to gain more representation, to fight for it. We have a case of if not us then who? It is us, all of us, who have to raise our voices and be heard. This should not be a divisive issue, rather a collaborative one. An issue where all sides recognize the benefits of greater representation, and then aim to create practical change.

This is one of the reasons why I am running as a Youth Councillor for the London Youth Advisory Council. And I hope such opportunities will be a stepping stone not just for me, but for every woman who wishes to make her mark, and create lasting change.

Zahra Naqvi is a candidate in Ward 10 for the 2017 London Youth Advisory Council.


1. http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/women-politics/

2.  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tara-katrusiak-baran/mothers-in-the-workforce_b_15686264.html

The Springbank dam: How it has negatively affected London

i Apr 29th No Comments by

In 1929 the construction of a dam, funded by the city of London, takes place. It was built on the Thames River, at Springbank Park, to slow the river for recreational purposes. This should have been an easy (yet costly) project that benefitted the city. However, it has ended up as a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. There is one thing that we have learned from this debacle and that is how damaged the government of London’s priorities are.

The dam was damaged 70 years later by a flood. It was shut down for repairs by Hatch ltd in 2006 for the hefty sum of 6.8 million dollars. In 2008 during testing on the northern gate, disaster strikes. The bolts that attached the hinges to the concrete base snapped off. This made the dam unable to operate. The city of London did not, as many would hope, negotiate with the contractors of Hatch ltd to resolve the fault and immediately get the dam operational. Instead the City began a 5 million dollar lawsuit against them. The court system is no fast business, and so the case of the Springbank dam was delayed until 2015.

That brings us up to date. Now let me give a quick summary, the City of London builds a dam, it is damaged, they hire Hatch ltd to fix it, it is in fact, not fixed, and the City of London sues Hatch ltd. Alright, now let’s put all this in terms of cost; The city of London halts a 57 million dollar project for a 5 million dollar lawsuit, and City itself may not even be blameless. That alone is ridiculous, but not the worst of it. The lawsuit was delayed for 7 years, and what has the city of London done in those 7 years? They have done nothing. They had seven years to continue the repairs on the dam while the suit was being processed, yet they did not budge.

The London Rowing team and the London Canoeing team used to practice on the section of the Thames in question, but due to the circumstances, have been forced to relocate. There used to be steam boats that traveled there too, families with their motor boats, and kayakers out for a ride. But since the Springbank dam has become non-operational, they have all disappeared. The City of London funded a project in 1929 for recreational purposes, but all they have left us with is the forlorn sight of what could have been.

Who is to blame? Is it Hatch ltd who was responsible for fixing the dam, or the Government of The City of London? Though both blame each other for the broken dam, I believe who is to blame is irrelevant. No matter who wins the suit, London will never see the 57 million dollars spent for this dam ever again. Recovering 5 million dollars (before paying lawyers) won’t solve the problem of the un-operational dam.

Repairing the dam will provide jobs, activities, and promote tourism. To add to that, mending the dam is what Londoners want. There are countless articles, and a Facebook page outlining that people are fed up with the lack of movement on the dam. The city of London has to take action, because the Springbank dam has the potential to greatly benefit London. Through this tiresome process that began in 2008, it would seem The City’s priorities do not match those living within it. Change needs to happen, and I for one am not willing to wait another 7 years for it.

-Maia Harris.

My name is Maia Harris, I am currently 15 years old and attending Oakridge Secondary School. I am running for the 2015 London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) for ward 9, and I can be contacted using this social media link:


or check out my website at:


You can vote for me between May 3rd and May 9th at:


and feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions! (maiaharris6@gmail.com)

Local Food Systems in Ward 11 & London

i Apr 24th No Comments by

London is a city surrounded by some of the best arable land in the world. Unfortunately a lot of the food grown in surrounding areas is sent off to the Toronto Food Terminal, to be packaged and processed then sent abroad (or sometimes back to London grocery stores). Globalization greatly reduced the resilience of rural communities to survive on small scale farms, and outsourced a great many jobs. It is important for our society to recognize the value of urban agriculture, and strive to create more resilient communities through the production of food.The globalization of our food system was a heavy blow to self sufficiency and small farmers, but presents an opportunity for London.

Something I work on almost daily is improving London’s ability to produce urban agriculture. I’m part of a group called Food Not Lawns London Canada, that seeks to turn unproductive urban land (like lawns) into edible gardens. Food Not Lawns London Canada organizes many events and workshops throughout the year, teaching fellow Londoners how to keep bees, forage for wild edibles and create ecological garden designs. On May 8th & 9th we will be hosting our annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale at the London Food Co-operative to sell edible plants, fruit trees, pollinator friendly plants and perennials, so come by and say hi to me (I’ll be there Friday evening). This fundraiser is an easy way for people to get involved, even if they buy some herbs for a kitchen window they are engaging in a healthier food system.

I live in an apartment and am continually surprised at the amount of projects I can do to produce my own food and reduce waste. I have a bin of vermi-composting worms that gobble up my food waste bits. I have seedlings growing in my south facing window, getting ready to be transplanted into pots on my balcony. I recently learned how to lacto-ferment vegetables, and hope to continue preserving the harvest that way. There are so many little things people can do to contribute to our local food system, and I would love to connect people to these resources.

Ward 11 is already pretty green, it has many mature trees and front lawn gardens. I hope to continue this work throughout my term, encouraging and supporting more people to convert sections of their property into edible or pollinator friendly areas. Through my work at ReForest London, I hope to also encourage more residents to plant trees on their property and register them at milliontrees.ca. I would love to see Ward 11 become the first ward in London that has pollinator friendly plants on every street (imagine in every yard!), and help create an urban pollinator oasis.  There are two London Community Resource Centre managed community gardens in Ward 11, Berkshire Gardens and the Thames Garden and they offer a great space for those without land to plant at a low cost. I would like to refer residents to those opportunities, and facilitate conversations about community gardens. During my campaign, I will be offering residents seeds for edible and pollinator friendly plants in hopes that they will plant them and create this oasis.

Like I said above, London has an opportunity. We are uniquely positioned to create a vibrant and sustainable food system that would create more jobs and access to affordable, local and high quality food. Whether its more urban farmers producing the food or more businesses processing local food, there are economic opportunities throughout the entire production line if we relocalise our food system. Through my work with Food Not Lawns London Canada, ReForest London and Agricultural Advisory Committee, I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with our community and its members to create a stronger urban food system. I would like to hear more from Londoners about our local food system and other issues they are passionate about. If you support my vision for Ward 11 and London, feel free to vote for me May 3rd to May 9th online at www.lyac.ca/vote2015.

Skylar Franke
Ward 11 Candidate for LYAC
Community Engagement Coordinator at ReForest London

Voting in the London Youth Advisory Council Elections

Who can vote?

  • Anyone 10 years old or older, including adults. They have to be residents of London.

When can they vote?

  • From 12 am on May 3rd to 11:59pm on May 9th.

Where can they vote?

  • Online at www.lyac.ca/vote2015. If they need access to a computer, they can use the library computers to vote or use one of the designated LYAC laptops at these seven locations: N’Amerind Centre, the Youth Cafe at Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Carling Family Thames Centre, Glen Cairn Community Centre, Youth for Christ, Islamic Centre and Muslim Mosque. The libraries and these community centres all know about LYAC and can help visitors vote.

Which ward can I vote in?

  • You can vote in the ward you either live in or go to school in. You will be able to determine which ward you’re located in with our ballot, or you can do so now at http://www.lyac.ca/wardlookup

More information is at http://www.lyac.ca/faq_from_voters

Q&A with Cynthia Etheridge, Ward 6 Candidate

i Oct 23rd No Comments by

As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Cynthia Etheridge, who is currently running for London City Councillor in ward 6.

Q: Would you share how you have participated in your community?
A: I have participated in our community in a few different ways. For five years I had over 60 seniors that I would shop and deliver groceries to after they had been released from the hospital. My children and I participated for one year in a program where we would get together with some homeless people and working poor and those on Ontario Works once a week in the basement kitchen of a church. We would prepare a meal together and eat together and do the clean up together and play games together. I also opened my home to people who had fallen on difficult times and needed a place to live until they could get back on their feet. I enjoy helping people and seeing them succeed, but I also enjoy teaching my children what real love and kindness is.

Q: How long, and in what capacity, have you been involved in politics at the municipal level within London? In your ward?
A: My interest in politics was sparked when I was only 19 years old and I was planning for the birth of my first child. I was thinking ahead for her education and I had hopes of becoming a school board trustee. I was told by a man that it wasn’t my place. It was years later when the political bug bit me again and I worked on other candidate’s campaigns. What I saw in some campaigns strengthened my resolve to get involved and try to fix what they were breaking. I worked behind the scenes for a city Councillor and knew that I could do a better job serving the people. I am not here to be popular, I am here to make things right.

Q: In your opinion, what do you feel are essential qualities of a good leader?
A: Something I believe is essential for good leaders is someone who listens and watches and realizes that all eyes are on them, so they better be a good example to the masses. When you genuinely care and you are decisive in actions people follow.

Q: What is your vision for London?
A: That we get tough as people and not just put up and shut up about the antics of Governments gone awry. We must keep our politicians feet to the fire and make them work for the People. We will overcome tough times and grow up and be strong together. We have a lot to fix but we have a London Plan and we need more People to join the collective in implementing the plan. Steady as she goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day but if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.

Q: What is your vision for the ward you aim to represent?
A: My vision for my Ward is to minimize strife, to narrow the divide between young and old, to help people remember or realize for the first time what a neighbourhood used to look like and how we can turn things around. We need to work on transit improvements. It would be nice to eliminate the absentee landlord woes.

Q: While compromise is important, are there any issues that you would not compromise on?”
A: Never compromise your good name. If my dad kept a good name and handed it down to me it is mandatory that I don’t compromise my values. Ethics and integrity and love for others.

Q: Once in office, how do you plan to remain engaged with the community?
A: I have been handing out my business card which takes up no room in a purse or wallet and my phone number is on it. It is working already. I am sending this questionnaire in late but I have never lost contact with my people in my ward. They know where to find me and they always come to me with concerns. I have been working as a councillor already for years.

Q: What changes would you like to see made to the 2014 budget? Why?
A: I would like to retire our debt and live as a debt free city because it is the smart thing to do.

Q: If elected, what are your top three priorities for the City of London?
A: Reduce stress, have peace, experience security for all the people of London.

Q: What do you think is the most urgent issue the city is facing?
A: People lack hope in the future. Without job security people worry about where their next meal comes from. Our city has been stagnant for so long. It is urgent that everyone makes the right decision about who they choose in this 2014 municipal election.

Q&A with Doreen Gysbers, Ward 9 Candidate

i Oct 23rd No Comments by

My name is Doreen Gysbers, and I am a running for the position of councillor in Ward 9.

S51330TB200570_item_0I am a citizen of Lambeth and I am a teacher. I have a political science degree from the University of Waterloo and a Bachelor of Education degree from Althouse College at Western.

I began my political career as a first-year representative on student council and finished university as a student council president of the Arts Faculty. I later served as a municipal councillor for four terms in Middlesex County.

I have been observing London municipal politics for some time, especially the last term where I was dismayed to see block voting by councillors, secret meetings and a mayor who was convicted of fraud. I decided to run for council in my ward.

I believe that the role of a councillor is to be the voice of the citizens in their ward. In addition to being a part of committees, a councillor should also be prepared to be a voice and make wise decisions at council meetings, attend functions in the ward and reply to citizen inquiries and concerns.

I believe that I am a good fit for ward 9, which has a mixture of rural, established communities like Lambeth and Byron, and rapid growth with new subdivisions; not unlike the municipality I previously served.

I am independently running my own campaign and do not take contributions, so that I will be able to freely make important decisions for my ward.

I am not afraid to make tough decisions, after reviewing all information presented to me at council meetings, and feel that female representation is important because we may offer a different perspective on an issue.

Q&A with Maureen Cassidy, Ward 5 Candidate

i Oct 23rd No Comments by

As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Maureen Cassidy, who is currently running for London City Councillor in ward 5.

maureen cassidyI am a 48 year old married mother of three; a Ward 5 resident; a UWO graduate; a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient; a breast cancer survivor; a blogger and a regular columnist for the North London Beacon, a community paper. I’ve been representing my community, Old Stoneybrook for several years both as President of our community association and as a member of the Masonville Community Council, a community-based group promoting thoughtful discussion on various issues important to the communities within the Masonville zone.

Upon graduation, I traveled extensively, working in a variety of positions in diverse locales before settling down and marrying Scott, my husband of 20 years. Before the birth of my third child, I was, for eleven years, a loyal member of the sales team at a major Canadian health benefits company.

Q: Would you share how you have participated in your community?
A: I spearheaded a grass roots movement to fight a proposed development in our neighbourhood. Together, with my community group, I helped steer my neighbourhood through the complex layers of the planning process at City Hall. That movement culminated in the founding of our community association, an endeavour in which I have remained actively involved. As the President of the Old Stoneybrook Community Association, I’ve worked closely within and for my community for several years.

I’ve organized and been involved with many community initiatives and I’ve made lasting connections both within my community and throughout London. As part of the Masonville Community Council, which brings together representatives from all of the Community Associations in Ward 5, I’ve made connections with other neighbourhoods and we’ve supported each other through different endeavours. I have also contributed, as a regular columnist, to the North London Beacon, a community paper. The column, entitled Old Stoneybrook News, keeps North London residents informed about events and issues in and around Old Stoneybrook and North London.

In 2013, in recognition of my service to my community, Joni Baechler nominated me for and presented me with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Q: In your opinion, what do you feel are essential qualities of a good leader?
A: It is essential that a good leader be passionate, decisive, intelligent, and willing to compromise. A good leader leads by example in promoting respectful discussion, honest dialogue, cooperation and collaboration. It’s inevitable that people will disagree but how they voice their disagreement is key to moving the discussion forward.

Without a doubt, there is a lot of ego in politics. It’s my belief that most of the current council members got started in politics for the right reasons but, at some point, ego took over. For some, it seems to have become about winning. It seems to have become more important to be right than to do what’s right for all the citizens of London. It’s the Politics of Me versus the Politics We.

A good leader recognizes that they are part of a team. If I am elected, I am 100% committed to work cooperatively and collaboratively with my colleagues on City Council.

Q: What qualities do you exhibit that make you a good fit for the role?
A: Passion – I try to approach everything in my life with passion. I am passionate about my family and about this city and what it can be. My passion for my community led me to take a group of neighbours who had banded together to deal with one specific issue and transform that group into a vibrant and active community association made up of over 700 families.

Leadership & Determination – As President of the Old Stoneybrook Community Association, I’ve worked closely with Joni Baechler, learning first-hand the level of preparation and hard work necessary in order to best represent my community. I’ve also worked with John Fleming, with developers and with residents. I have in-depth knowledge about processes and policies. As a result, I can hit the ground running. One current councillor once said it took him 2 years to figure out how things work at City Hall. I won’t have that problem.

Empathy – Thanks to my work with Joni Baechler, I know how things work at City Hall and thanks to my work with my community, I know the perception of City Hall from the citizen’s point of view. I know what the average citizen faces when they’re up against City Hall – it can be like a brick wall. As Ward 5 Councillor, I will engage citizens, research diligently and read reports to ensure that informed public policy is decided through thoughtful decision making, all while remaining cognizant of the citizen’s point of view. I see this as an extension and an expansion of the work I’ve been doing for the past several years.

Q: What is your vision for London?
A: I want to see London regain its position as a leader in economic growth and wealth creation. As our economy shifts from one that is labour-based to one that is knowledge-based – from traditional manufacturing to advanced manufacturing, research and technology – it’s important that London get on-board or risk being left behind.

Together, we can build a city of the future that uses infrastructure and resources responsibly; that offers people a variety of transportation options; and that includes its citizens in a productive and progressive conversation. We need to develop a multi-fold strategy to attract industry; to encourage and support small business; to promote entrepreneurship; and finally to entice graduates and young workers to make London their home. As part of this strategy, we must increase our efforts at improving and/or protecting the assets that make London an attractive, liveable city: our river, our green spaces, our multi-use path system, our arts and culture, etc.

Links to News Stories

Contact Information

Q&A with Kelly Elliott, Ward 1 Candidate in Thames Centre

i Sep 25th No Comments by

As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Kelly Elliot, who is currently running for City Councillor in Thames Centre.

kellyelectionpicMy 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.

Contact Kelly:

You can find me online at kellyelliott.ca. You can contact me through my website, email (kellyelliottmcm@gmail.com), or find me on Twitter (@kellyelliottmcm).

Q&A with Anna Hopkins, Ward 9 Candidate

i Sep 22nd No Comments by

As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Anna Hopkins, who is currently running for London City Councillor in ward 9.

Anna HopkinsQ: 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?
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 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?
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.

Contact Anna

928 Springbank Drive
London, ON N6K 1A5

Phone: 519-657-3456
Cell: 519-854-0338
Email: anna@annahopkins.ca

Twitter: @AnnaHopkins11
Facebook: Anna Hopkins
Website: www.annahopkins.ca

Q&A with Donna Szpakowski, ward 7 candidate

i Sep 12th No Comments by

As part of our Candidate Q & A series, we interviewed Donna Szpakowski, who is currently running for London City Councillor in ward 7.

DonnaS-242x3001Q: 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.

About Donna

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.

Contact Donna

Email:     vote@DonnaS.ca
Website: www.DonnaS.ca
Twitter:  @vote_donnas