Matthew Schwarze, a fourth-year mathematics student, is running to represent Ward 6 in the upcoming city council elections that will be held on Oct. 24. He has been involved in student government since 2019, first as a WUSA Councillor and then as the 2021-22 VP Operations and Finance. He is currently a Director on the WUSA Board.
Schwarze said that he initially wasn’t sure about running as a student, but seeing that no other candidate had stepped up until July, he decided to register. “I think that the current city council has done a lot of really good progress, and set us in a lot of good directions. And, of course, there’s always things that I’d like to see done differently or things done more of, but I thought that we were going in a pretty good direction,” he said. “I was afraid that with half of city council retiring this year, we were going to see it go possibly in a significantly different direction in just a couple months, and the council might look very different. So when no one else stepped forward to run and I sort of saw that I could provide a lot, making sure that we keep up with our sort of progressive movement, I put my name forward. For a number of weeks, I was still the only candidate, and it was only just near the right the end of the deadline, three more candidates stepped up.”
If elected, Schwarze’s main priorities would be affordable & high-quality housing, a robust active transit network and climate action & sustainability.
When it comes to housing in particular, Schwarze believes that the biggest issue the city needs to look at is zoning reform. “The zoning rules that we have in place and the zoning regulations prevent and make it illegal to build a lot of different kinds of affordable housing,” he said.
Schwarze stated that he would support more non-profit housing and cooperative housing in the city.
Talking about student housing specifically, Schwarze said, “Student housing matters to everybody, because what we’re increasingly seeing now, after the pandemic, and after a number of student units have been converted to housing for other purposes, [is that] there is now not enough student housing to go around. There is a deficit and we have students that are going without housing. Right now, even.”
Schwarze explained that the lack of student housing is not only affecting students but also the community at large. ”Students are now moving out of the student areas which we best fit because it’s really easy to get to school and access to, you know, potential jobs or access to social opportunities, but moving out into the community and taking up affordable housing spots elsewhere throughout Waterloo and Kitchener,” he said.
Additionally, Schwarze said that he would like to see more permanent bike lanes being put up throughout the city, so that there is a strong network and people feel comfortable getting anywhere in the city quickly, no matter their preferred mode of transport. “I don’t blame somebody trying to bike down Columbia, down toward Westmount. I don’t blame them for not feeling comfortable back in there. It’s a scary street [with] really fast traffic, and you’ve just got a painted line to protect you.”
Schwarze is an advocate for creating walkable communities in the city, so that everyone has access to a small grocery store or coffee shop, or other amenities within a walkable distance.
Ensuring that the city keeps up with their sustainability commitments is another one of Schwarze’s campaign priorities. “We have these really great plans going up to 2030 and 2050, but it’s going to take constant work to meet the interim milestones in order to meet those long term commitments and governments have a tendency to approve long term phenomenal sounding visions, and then not do what it takes to get there and that’s what I want to make sure it’s done.”
Schwarze sees his priorities as a “living document.” He does not intend on removing anything from them, but is trying to add more information and points based on the interactions he has with the people of the ward. “There’s so many great people that live in the ward. A lot of very diverse groups, and it’s been really great [meeting them]. The reception has been really phenomenal. I really appreciate it kind everybody’s been a lot of people are excited about the same issues that I am and I really appreciate getting to talk with them on their doorstep about it. I had one woman, have me sit down with her for a couple of minutes, at a little table she had on her doorstep. And we chatted about the issues and what her views were on it. And it really has been nothing but lovely. It has changed a lot of some of my perspective on issues. Rather than changing the sort of broad strokes parts of it, it’s given me new perspectives on two different angles — the issues that I thought were important to people and what they were finding were priorities for them.”
Schwarze iterated that it is absolutely vital that students vote in the upcoming elections.
“There’s a lot of rough reputations that young people get for not voting and being less engaged in politics, especially local level politics, municipal politics, that you know, doesn’t have the discipline to get as much attention as federal provincial. All elections do, but it’s the municipal government, the city government that has a greater impact on your day to day life than any other level, and it’s the city government that’s best empowered to solve a lot of issues that are really important to us,” Schwarze said.