Cambridge’s Ward 3, which covers the neighbourhood of Preston, will be getting a new city councillor this year, as incumbent Mike Mann has opted to stand down after two terms.
The race for the open seat is a crowded field of five candidates, including former Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios, 2021 federal Green Party candidate for Cambridge Michele Braniff, and first-time candidates Nate Whalen and Corey Kimpson.
On homelessness, perhaps the key issue in the ward, the candidates offer a variety of opinions and solutions.
“The status quo is not working. Clearly, the way The Bridges shelter is operating has contributed to the homelessness issue, not improved it,” Karahalios said in an email.
“And we must ask why that is because with the imposition of a drug injection site, the homelessness issue will only get worse,” she continued, referring to the consumption and treatment site at 150 Main St. which Cambridge City Council approved last year.
Whalen said he decided to run because of his experience trying to help a homeless individual find shelter.
“Our system is quite broken. Even if the help is available, our government agencies and departments are not working together to make sure you provide a common front to one access point to the different services,” he continued, noting that homeless individuals have bigger worries than navigating the bureaucracy.
Braniff noted that, in her view, affordable housing is the long-term solution to this issue.
“When I’m talking about affordable housing, I’m saying the long-term solution to homelessness is affordable housing, meaning that everyone has a home, and we don’t have enough affordable housing units.”
Braniff also pointed to land trusts – whereby a non-profit or community group purchases plots of land to preserve for a specific purpose – as a potential means to achieve this goal.
Kimpson said the city needs to be amenable to new ideas and solutions to the homelessness and housing crisis.
“At the city level, really what we have to do is we have to maintain an open mind and we have to be willing to partner with other levels of government as well as other groups and agencies,” she said.
“[We need to be] willing to look at something maybe we haven’t done before, maybe something that another community has done and weighing it based on its own merits on whether or not it would be a good fit for our community.”
Given the crowded field and lack of incumbent, this election could easily come down to the margins.
“When you look at the math, you don’t need that many votes to win across five people, so I’m just focused on the ground game,” said Whalen.