You’re reading the October 20, 2022 edition of the Peterborough Currents email newsletter. To receive our email newsletters straight to your inbox, sign up here.
Good afternoon, candidates are making their final pitches to voters ahead of Monday’s municipal election. We have put together a comprehensive guide to what all 30 candidates for Peterborough city council are promising to do if elected.
Also in this week’s newsletter, another round of service changes at Peterborough Transit.
Peterborough Transit cuts evening service on some routes; boosts on-demand service
With a shortage of bus drivers continuing to cause frequent trip cancellations, Peterborough Transit is cutting evening service on several routes and replacing it with on-demand service.
On-demand transit is similar to ride-sharing apps like Uber and YDrive Ptbo; instead of customers showing up at a bus stop at regularly-scheduled times, they book rides by phone or an app. Software then determines the most efficient route from the nearest bus stop to the customer’s destination, according to a release from the City.
On-demand service will replace Route 3 Park, Route 4 Weller, Route 8 Monaghan and Route 9 Parkhill on weekday evenings between 7:45 and 11:45 p.m., starting October 30. There will also be some trip time adjustments and the Community Bus Route 21 Green will be temporarily suspended; the full details are available on the City’s website.
“The upcoming service adjustments will bring more consistency and reliability to Peterborough Transit service,” the release said.
For more than a year, transit riders have been frustrated by frequent trip cancellations – sometimes dozens per day.
Peterborough Transit is currently short 10 drivers, which is what’s making it difficult to keep buses on the road, said City spokesperson Brendan Wedley by email. “High rates of absenteeism” are also contributing to the problem, he said.
So far this year, 12 drivers have retired, quit or been let go. That’s more than the rate of attrition of approximately 8 drivers per year over the previous six years. A “limited candidate pool” is making it difficult to replace those drivers, Wedley said.
And the shortage may not end anytime soon: a “large number” of senior drivers will be coming up for retirement over the next five years, Wedley said.
Last year, a former president of the local transit worker’s union told Peterborough Currents that drivers are being forced to work “excessively” long shifts, with lengthy unpaid breaks, which is pushing some to retire early and making it harder to retain new hires. The City said at the time that shifts are scheduled in accordance with transit drivers’ collective agreement.
Tracking the promises candidates did—and didn’t—make on the campaign trail
For the last few weeks, we at Peterborough Currents have been poring over candidate questionnaires and campaign websites and watching hours and hours of mayoral debates, in the lead up to Monday’s municipal election.
The end result: our municipal election candidate tracker, a round-up of all the campaign promises we could find from the 30 candidates running for Peterborough city council.
Some candidates spelled out their vision for the city with detailed platforms. It was hard to get information on others.
Monaghan Ward incumbent Don Vassiliadis, who is running for a third term, mounted one of the most bare-bones campaigns.
His campaign website lists the portfolios he’s held and committees he’s sat on over the last eight years. But it says nothing about where he wants to take the city over the next four. We could only find one interview he’s done since nominations closed, with the Peterborough Examiner. As far as commitments go, the article said Vassiliadis would push to make city hall’s diversity, inclusion and equity officer position permanent and that he hasn’t given up on taking a “regional approach” to economic development. Other than that, as far as we can tell, he only answered two of the many candidate surveys those running for office were asked to fill out (by the Peterborough Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Electric City Culture Council).
Vassiliadis is one of six incumbents running for a ward seat. Like Vassiliadis, most of them promised remarkably little. Of all of the incumbents, Gary Baldwin (running for re-election in Ashburnham Ward) had the most campaign pledges by our count: 15.
Many pressing challenges await the next city council when they are sworn in in November: tackling homelessness, fixing Peterborough’s beleaguered transit system, and enacting the new official plan, to name a few. It will take big ideas and bold decision making to make real headway on those issues. Voters deserve concrete proposals from candidates on how they will help get us there.
To see what the candidates in your ward and those running for mayor are promising to do if elected, check out the municipal election candidate tracker on our website.
Other stories to watch:
HOMELESSNESS EMERGENCY: Mayor Diane Therrien unilaterally declared a state of emergency on homelessness last Friday, a symbolic gesture that isn’t expected to produce more funding to expand shelter capacity this winter. Council did not hold a vote on the emergency declaration, which came following a special mid-election council meeting where Therrien and three councillors argued in favour of spending $200,000 of City money to run an overnight winter drop-in centre, against the recommendation of staff. Senior staff had argued that addressing winter homelessness doesn’t meet the threshold for approving new spending on an emergency basis when council’s spending powers are otherwise limited during an election period. “Declaring a State of Emergency is one measure we can take to stress the importance of this issue, highlight the need for solutions, and to reassure our unhoused neighbours and community members that we will do whatever is within our power to help them survive the coming months,” Therrien said in a statement posted to Twitter. At the special council meeting, staff said they are working on a plan to potentially use vacant units owned by the Peterborough Housing Corporation as transitional housing for those without shelter this winter, but they did not provide a timeline or any other details.
SUPERVISED DRUG CONSUMPTION AND TREATMENT SITE: Last winter, it was still unclear if the Ford government would fund Peterborough’s supervised drug consumption and treatment site and Peterborough Public Health was scrambling to try to open a temporary one in the meantime to curb drug poisoning deaths. At the time, Peterborough Currents wanted to know why an application for funding to operate the site had been languishing at Ontario’s health ministry for more than a year without a decision. We submitted a freedom-of-information request to the ministry. After repeated delays and missed deadlines, in early September the ministry finally released the records we had asked for, more than seven months after initially submitting our request. We are still looking through the records, but we wanted to let you know that we received them.