2022 London, Ont. municipal election: Meet the Ward 2 candidates

Londoners are gearing up to head to the polls on Oct. 24 for the upcoming municipal election as residents of the Forest City will elect their next desired mayor, city councillors and school board trustees.

Sixty-one candidates are running in 14 wards across the city, but only two have their eyes on Ward 2.

The incumbent Shawn Lewis is seeking a second term on council, and Mike Yohnicki is also on the ballot.

A full list of mayoral and ward candidates can be found on the city’s website.

But with a lot of new faces coming to the table across the wards, Global News has reached out to all those in the running and emailed a list of five questions on some of the key issues in the city from combating homelessness, addiction and mental health issues to affordable housing and accessible public transit.

The responses for every candidate who replies will be shared below.

Now it’s time to meet the candidates for Ward 2.

Shawn Lewis

Q1. Over the summer, the group The Forgotten 519 put out a call to action to come up with urgent solutions to address London’s homelessness crisis. If elected, how would you tackle homelessness, addiction and mental health issues in London?

The Forgotten 519 represent only one limited perspective on the homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. They ignored the reality that it is the provincial government, not the municipal government, that has the jurisdiction and responsibility to address these issues, which are not unique to London and are happening in big cities across the province.

Healthcare is a provincial responsibility and not one the city can take on.

It was not the City of London that closed 700 mental health and addiction treatment beds at the London Psychiatric Hospital, it was the Ontario government. It is not the city that sets criminally low shelter allowances with ODSP and OW; It is the province. The city can make an impact on the issue of homelessness, but we cannot solve it without significant provincial action as well.

From the city perspective, the single most important thing we can do is get building! More housing inventory is necessary and for the first time in 50 years we are building new Rent Geared to Income Units with London Housing. We’ve completed a rapid housing build on Baseline Road and another is underway on Thompson Road, with a third project in the works on Elm Street.

The City has also been working with the Vision SOHO group that is breaking ground this week on a 600 unit revitalization of the old South Street hospital lands. These were all things happening before the Forgotten 519 protest, because council already had homelessness on our agenda as a serious issue to tackle.

The city can and will do our part. But we cannot backfill provincial responsibilities and we cannot and must not compromise the safety of all Londoners—not just those the Forgotten 519 are advocates for—in terms of upholding by-laws and ensure police have the resources to respond to urgent calls.

Q2. London business owners have recently highlighted some of the economic challenges they’re facing particularly in the downtown core. What strategies do you propose to revitalize London’s downtown core to help businesses thrive?

Businesses can’t succeed without a stable customer base. The single most important thing we can do is continue to proceed with infill developments of residential buildings and make it as easy as possible to convert former office space into residential, because the best thing by far for the downtown is people actually living there!

We also do have to address the safety issues and destructive behaviours of some of the street involved individuals who are causing problems in the area. That’s why I fully support the establishment of a street front police foot patrol office and increasing our police staffing levels to meet the demands of a growing city.

Q3. Affordability in the housing and rental markets is the most pressing issue for many Londoners. If elected, what changes would you push for to ease the burden on Londoners when it comes to the cost of living?

Again, the number one thing the city can do in this regard is to let builders get building! The biggest reason rental and housing prices continue to be sky high is simple supply and demand.

There are more people looking for housing than there is housing available.

City council cannot impose rent controls, and despite claims by advocates, things like “RentSafe” will only push costs even higher for renters. We don’t need to layer on more bureaucratic red-tape.

But the city does not set monetary policy—that is the federal government—and there are not a lot of things the city itself can do about inflationary pressures. In fact, the city itself has inflationary costs to absorb on our programs and services and we are very much under the same pressures. While we can absorb some of those in the short-term, we do not have the fiscal capacity to do that forever. Ultimately, people need to be looking to the proper levels of government to address their concerns.

City hall cannot do everything. People elect MPs and MPPs, as well as city councillors, and they need to hold those folks to account as well for their areas of responsibility. The city can help by fast tracking as much housing as possible to ease pressures there, but many of the affordability issues facing people today have to be tackled by the higher levels of government.

Q4. London is in the process of building three legs of bus rapid transit (BRT), but challenges remain for the north and west end of the city. What is your vision for the next phase of public transit in the city?

We don’t even have one of the rapid transit lines fully constructed yet, let alone running, so it’s time we set aside any further BRT discussion for the moment.

What’s more of a priority to me is that we are brutally honest that the way conventional transit service is operated is a huge reason people simply will not use transit. Tasking LTC with a rework of the ‘spaghetti mess’ of transit routes on the map and look at a more functional grid system, look at where “transit on demand” makes more sense than traditional routes, etc., has to be a significant part of the discussion.

We also need to accept that car’s are not going away, although the sooner both car’s and transit go fully electric the better. Transit is only ever going to be a part of how people move around.

Q5. What is your vision for London in the next 10 years and how do we get there?

The London I see is the city that is the main engine of the region’s success.

While working with our neighbouring communities to succeed together, we offer a prosperous and balanced economy, a diverse population, a healthy urban environment, and a vibrant social scene that offers both quality neighbourhood-level opportunities and attracts world class events in sports, music, and entertainment options that makes people proud to call our city home!

That doesn’t mean trying to be everything to everyone. It isn’t a London that tries, or even wants to be, another Toronto or any other city but instead focuses on our strengths to be the best London we can be. This is work that is already well underway.

Incredible work is already happening such as leveraging our UNESCO city of music designation, attracting the return of convention business to the city, and more. We don’t need to change course; we need to let the work already underway bare fruit.

We’ve seen early successes of the film office and LEDC attracting Apple TV and other entertainment productions to the area. We’re seeing cranes in the sky downtown and major employers like Maple Leaf Foods choosing London. We get there by building on those things and being smart and targeted in where the city invests in itself.

Mike Yohnicki

Q1. Over the summer, the group The Forgotten 519 put out a call to action to come up with urgent solutions to address London’s homelessness crisis. If elected, how would you tackle homelessness, addiction and mental health issues in London?

What I can say is there are a lot of fringe groups, 519 is no different then416, 905 etc. Homeless has NO  one solution. Affordable housing will not fix the problem, it starts at provincial and federal levels for a decent living wage, and most homeless people don’t want the responsibility (sic) of owning a home orpaying rent.

Yohnicki did not answer the other questions.

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