Editor’s Note: Rowena Santos and Paul Vicente are running as a team and submitted duplicate answers for most of their questionnaires.
1. Candidate Bio:
Rowena is a proud Bramptonian inspired by community and driven by a passion to change the culture of politics to help move the city forward. She is running to be City Councillor, together with Paul Vicente, who is running to be Regional Councillor, in Wards 1 & 5.
Rowena is a community leader known for her grassroots organizing and ability to bring people together. She has also mentored and trained young adults to be politically active across the GTA.
Rowena has over 12 years of political experience at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Before politics, Rowena worked in a number of top tier corporations, including systems management at Magna, financial analysis at the Royal Bank of Canada, and brand management with General Mills. She was also the project manager of corporate citizenship with Imagine Canada and Executive Director of Emagine.
Rowena holds a BBA degree from the Schulich School of Business and a Masters from the London School of Economics, UK.
Rowena and Paul want to make Brampton a place where people can live, work, learn and play. Staying connected with constituents through regular town halls and getting the basics right such as investment in road infrastructure and transit are just the beginning. If elected, Paul and Rowena want to focus on crime prevention by bringing back funding for community safety and youth programs and hiring more officers. Making life more affordable for Bramptonians, supporting arts and culture, and creating more jobs are essential to making a vibrant and innovative city.
Over the years, Rowena has volunteered as a board member for numerous non-profit organizations including Equal Voice, Brampton Focus, Neighbourhood Watch Brampton, and StandUp4Brampton.com.
Rowena is a proud mom to an amazing eight-year-old boy. When she is not focusing on politics, organizing, and volunteering, she is running or biking along the Etobicoke Creek Trail or breaking a sweat at the local YMCA.
2. What are your three top priorities for Brampton?
We want to build Brampton into a city where residents have a high quality of life- a place we can live, work, learn and play. Brampton should be a place we are proud to call home. In order to do that, we need to create job opportunities, safe neighbourhoods, and a vibrant downtown. We must continue to grow our transit system, improve regional connections, and promote alternative commuting options like cycling and walking. Residents of Brampton also expect us to improve the quality of their basic public services such as snow removal, neighbourhood and park cleanliness, and support for a full-service second hospital.
We can create more jobs by eliminating red tape which is a barrier to entry for businesses looking to settle in our city. By increasing commercial zoning for small, medium, and start-up companies we can increase investment. Increasing economic activity also helps to re-balance the revenue of the city and alleviates the burden of residential property tax payers who currently pay for most of the city’s bill. By hiring more community officers and bringing back support for community safety and youth programs, we can create a safer city. We must also support and promote arts and culture as an integral part of our city’s identity. It is proven in other jurisdictions that investment in arts and culture yields multiples in return to the economy.
Last but not least, we must lead by example and work as a team on Council. These are our priorities to help build a brighter future for Brampton.
3. What is one major council decision from the previous (2014-2018) term that you agree with?
We fully support Council’s decision to endorse Brampton’s 2040 Vision, and especially their commitment to an increased economic activity rate of 60%. At that meeting, Paul delegated to Council and praised the goal to have 60% of residents working in the city. In addition, we support the process through which the Brampton 2040 Vision was assembled by actively engaging over 13,000 Bramptonians and community organizations. This shows that it is a plan that suits the needs of its residents.
4. What is one major council decision from the previous (2014-2018) term that you disagree with?
The rejection of the proposed $1.6 billion Hurontario-Main LRT (HMLRT) plan cost our city millions of dollars in investment from the province. A majority of residents in Brampton, in addition to community organizations, the Brampton Board of Trade, labour organizations and arts community clamored in support of the proposed HMLRT plan. By declining this plan, the city forfeited a massive opportunity to create jobs, build transit, and move our city forward.
At the October 27, 2015 meeting, Paul delegated to Council to support the proposed HMLRT plan saying that if the city refused to build the provincially funded HMLRT today, it would need to build it in the future, costing residents of this city millions more. The opportunity cost to reject the HMLRT is immeasurable in lost time, productivity, and economic benefit to our city.
5. Are there any other ideas from other cities that you would like to see replicated in Brampton?
The multi-sectoral, multi-agency approach that FOCUS Rexdale utilizes in finding community solutions to crime and community safety is one that we would like to see established in Brampton. FOCUS Rexdale involves groups from police, community-based health organizations, the City of Toronto, social services, and other groups. We need more of this cross-dimensional mobilization and partnership to come to holistic solutions to community safety issues and social disorder. This approach would help us access information more effectively and help create local solutions.
The City of Markham is a great example of how we can increase industry in our city by diversifying our networks. Markham has been able to accomplish significant job creation and investment in industry because the leadership on its council is using their expertise to network with businesses in other areas of the world and bring them to their city. We need local representatives who have the skill set and experience to accomplish this in our own city.
The City of Toronto’s project in Fort York, the Bentway, is a project where space beneath the Gardiner Expressway is transformed into public space for community usage. This is an innovative example of how we can create public space in underused areas that mutually utilizes infrastructure in the city but also address the need for more arts and community public spaces.
The Toronto Community Benefits Network is an example of how business, developers, social enterprise and government infrastructure contracts can commit to creating opportunities and community support as part of their investment in the city. This is another example of bringing organizations and people together through partnerships to improve the quality of life in our city.
Montreal, London, Rome, Paris and Amsterdam are great examples of how we can implement a Public Art Strategy to encourage private developers to build public art when they develop an area. For example, we can transform construction areas into outdoor Public Art Galleries or if a developer is developing a neighbourhood, there should be space allocated for public art which the developer pays for.
6. What are your top transportation priorities to ease congestion and gridlock in the city of Brampton and connections to other communities?
Ongoing road infrastructure maintenance is essential to easing congestion in Brampton. Especially in the wintertime, we need to ensure that that we have quality winter road maintenance and that contractors employed by the city are accountable and doing a good job. Ultimately, we can overcome gridlock and congestion during rush hour when we create more jobs in the city. If more residents stay in Brampton for employment, the congestion that occurs from traffic moving out from the city can be mitigated.
We must also come together and proceed with transit solutions. The longer we wait, the longer it will take to get our city moving. The decision against the proposed HMLRT set our city back on transit. We need support from provincial and federal government to build transit in our city.
Finally, we must look at promoting other methods of getting around in our city. Cycling and walking are healthy alternatives that we support and encourage but we need to make they are safe alternatives for residents. We would work with Bike Brampton to support cycling in our city.
7. What are your thoughts on the Brampton 2040 Vision and how should the city proceed with the vision?
As mentioned, we both support the Brampton 2040 Vision. We agree with the process through which it was created. It is a bold and exciting vision that is consistent with our key platform points. However, one item that we question is the Figure 8 Transit Loop- we are still very much in favour of the HMLRT route approved by city staff and the province.
8. What is your position on the city’s finances and how would you tackle demands for services and infrastructure renewal?
An important aspect of the City’s finances is the need to re-balance its revenue structure. By encouraging business growth and investment we not only create more jobs BUT we also increase the amount of commercial property tax generated. This would relieve the burden that residential property tax payers mostly shoulder. By re-balancing this structure with more revenue generated through commercial property tax we can tackle the demands of increased services and infrastructure renewal that the city requires.
9. What are your thoughts on how the city/region should handle the alleged uptick of spontaneous youth violence and crime in the city?
While going door to door over the summer months, we have consistently heard the demand for a discussion on crime which is what led us to co-host a community safety town hall meeting on August 16. Hosted in partnership with One Brampton, we invited residents, Peel Region Police, leaders from community groups and the Mayor to participate in this discussion.
In addition, we met with 20 young adults from One Voice One Team who shared their perspective on this issue. It is important for us to listen and engage young people in conversations about youth violence. They spoke about some of the root causes of youth violence. From them we learnt that youth are lacking support, programs and job opportunities. Many young people do not have role models and lack focus in their lives. They also shared success stories of having community officers in their school at David Suzuki who act as role models and confidants. We want to work with organizations such as the YMCA, Lab B, One Voice One Team, Peel Regional Police and our local schools to develop a community based approach in addressing the root causes of youth violence in our city.
Brampton has one of the youngest populations on average in our country. It is our job as city leaders to lead by example and be there for our young people. This should be more of a reason for Council to work as a team. In addition to the community based approach mentioned above, we will be actively present at schools, mentoring young people and bringing forward a youth leadership program at City Hall.
10. Why should voters vote for you?
Brampton has outgrown its small town status. We have tremendous potential but we need a team that will move our city forward. We have the experience and network to bring people together and we’ve tirelessly been working as community leaders to keep residents engaged about the city’s issues.
Together we have an expansive understanding of the issues but we also have the skills and the network to solve them. Whether it’s through our proactive effort in hosting community discussions through town halls, or our ongoing commitment to engage youth, community groups, and other leaders in our city. We have a proven track record through StandUp4Brampton and Brampton Focus. We know how to bring people together and make the most of the talent we have in our city.
Brampton is at a tipping point. While we are experiencing some growing pains, our residents have a choice in this election to elect a team in Wards 1 & 5 who will help move our city forward and together build a brighter future for Brampton.
Candidate contact info:
Website: Link here
Social Media: @RowenaSantosBrampton