Two students launch bid to unseat Stroud in Sydenham

Dylan Chenier and Matt Gaiser vie for city council in upcoming municipal election 

Two Queen’s students have launched campaigns to unseat Sydenham District City Councillor Peter Stroud in the upcoming municipal election.

Dylan Chenier and Matt Gaiser are both running for the district seat, which includes Queen’s and the historic Sydenham ward neighbourhood. 

Both candidates sat down with The Journal to discuss their bids and the issues they plan to bring forward to students and residents. 

Stroud did not respond to a request for  a comment in time for publication. 

In an interview, Chenier said “the most important issue to me would be the fact that we need to create a sense of community for the students to feel like they belong in this city and they belong in Sydenham, not just to the university.”

A Kingston local, Chenier is going into his third year of political studies. He’s been involved in the city’s political scene since the last municipal election in 2014, when he volunteered on former Mayoral candidate Brenda Slomka’s campaign.  

“I sort of knew back then, I’d probably want to run in four years. It was just a matter of where,” Chenier said. “Then becoming a student here for the past two years, seeing how everything goes here, I thought Sydenham would make sense to run in.”

As the campaign gets underway, Chenier will focus on housing issues and downtown development, student representation on City Council, and improving local access to Council issues.

Chenier also said he plans to make the University District Safety Initiative, announced in early June, a central campaign issue. He told The Journal the consultation process for the initiative was “flawed,” because student groups were left out of the decision-making process.  

“I think the policy itself rises from a need to protect students and the need to maintain safety. But the bylaw that was put in place, it just doesn’t do it right and it treats the students as separate from the rest of the community,” Chenier said.

“I think City Council doesn’t necessarily do a good job of maintaining proper relationships with the AMS or other student groups here in the University,” he added. “City Council tends to look at [students] as secondary citizens, and I think if you start to treat students as Kingstonians, that will harbour a better relationship with the University.”

In an interview, Gaiser told The Journal, his Council bid is his second attempt at public office, running as a Liberal candidate in Alberta during the last general election.

Gaiser, a computer engineering student, said he plans to focus on three central issues: the vacancy rate in Kingston, business recycling issues and economic challenges to the downtown core.

“The vacancy rate here is only 0.7 per cent, and in the downtown area it’s only 0.5 per cent. So basically, there’s only one out of every 200 units open for rental. And what’s happening is, it’s causing the price of rent to skyrocket,” Gaiser said.

“We don’t want to reach Toronto levels of rent price; Queen’s is already one of the most expensive schools to attend in Ontario.”

Gaiser will also address the collection of recycling for businesses during the campaign. He said the City doesn’t collect business recycling at the curb, which hinders sustainability efforts. 

“[The City has] structured it in a way that has incentivized businesses to toss all their recyclables in the garbage. If you’re a city that wants to become the most sustainable in Canada, I think that’s unacceptable,” Gaiser said.

Addressing economic challenges in Kingston’s downtown core, Gaiser said “major properties in the downtown area are not being rented out, including ones that are right beside the downtown transfer point. Nobody’s leasing them. We need to figure out why.”

When asked his position on the University District Safety Initiative, Gaiser said he’s “not familiar” with the initiative, but that he’d heard of it.

“I don’t see how that’s helpful to only enforce this during party weekends. Either the rules apply, or they don’t,” Gaiser said. “I understand why you’d want students to feel consequences, but you then need to be consistent in the punishments.”

Both candidates also addressed the importance of the student vote in the upcoming election. Chenier and Gaiser both said they want to gain student attention by addressing key issues facing the University on the municipal level. 

With the nomination period now closed, Chenier and Gaiser have less than three months to campaign for the seat.

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