A Plan of Action.
I hear the same things every day when I knock on people's doors or meet them at community events. They're concerned about the increasing cost of living. They're tired of roadblocks when trying to access City programs or investing in properties. And they're frustrated with all levels of government that don't listen or follow through. I believe I have a plan that can make life in St. Catharines more affordable, our community more accessible, and make all levels of government more accountable.
We're all feeling the pressure from inflation and the rising cost of living. How can the city improve housing availability for those who want to live and work here?
How can we make St. Catharines more inclusive? How can we engage other levels of government on pressing social issues? How can we improve services to support businesses and families?
What can we do to make all levels of government and our representatives more accountable to the people and businesses we represent?
Hi! I'm Mat Siscoe.
I have had the honour of representing our community on City and Regional Council for almost 12 years. Over that time, I've met thousands of residents, business owners and families. Getting to know the people who make up the fabric of our city is one of the greatest joys I get from public life. During this campaign, and as our Mayor, I hope to meet many more of you. I think it's vital to understand each other's social and cultural differences to appreciate the unique ways we contribute to the community. I hope you'll take a minute to learn about me, and I hope to learn about you as I take this conversation to every door across our city.
I’m a father.
When I met my wife Chrissy Sadowski (who many of you know from her tireless work in the community) while teaching in Korea , I never could have imagined the joy and love I would experience raising our four incredible children together. Their support is the driving force that keeps me going.
I’m a teacher.
Teaching has been both my career and my passion for 15 years. I have had the opportunity to teach (and learn from) thousands of exceptional students over that time. My goal is to build a community where those students can continue to live, work, and raise their own families.
I’m a coach.
Coaching youth sports has always been a natural extension of my joy of teaching. I have spent many hours at football fields, hockey arenas, and sports centres, working hard to be a positive leader for our youth. Whether coaching high school students or local young athletes (including my kids), I have always enjoyed giving back to the community through sport.
I’m a volunteer.
Over the years, I have tried to give back to our community by giving what time I can to causes that improve people's lives who call St. Catharines home. From helping comfort our most vulnerable citizens overnight at Out of the Cold to being a board member for the Niagara Children's Centre, I am often humbled by the incredible work done by dedicated people across our city.
I’m a councillor.
Representing our community at City Council and the Region for the past 12 years has been a great honour and one that I have never taken for granted. Whether I'm working on implementing regional transit, debating topics at council, or handling a citizen's inquiry, I have always remained grounded by your trust in me. I'll work to keep earning that trust as our Mayor.
I’m a candidate for Mayor.
While this isn't the first time I have asked for your support during an election, it is possibly the most important. Our city has come a long way, and I want to make sure we take advantage of the opportunities before us and address our challenges. I am asking for your support on October 24 to be our next Mayor.
Let's have a conversation about the future of our city.
Part of my plan is to be accountable to you. I want to hear your thoughts about my plan to make St. Catharines a more affordable, accessible and accountable place to live.
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The AAA approach.
Since first announcing that I wanted to be our next Mayor, the question I've been asked the most is 'Why do I want the job?' The simple answer is I want my children to have the same opportunity my wife Chrissy and I had - to live, work and build their families right here in St. Catharines. Of course, the next question is, 'How are you going to do that?' I have committed my entire adult life to serving this community as a teacher, coach, and volunteer. For the past 12 years, I have been fortunate to earn our community's trust and serve as a City and Regional Councillor. This experience has shown me how to deliver on what the City and Region can do to improve residents' lives. After listening to the issues people throughout our community face, I believe I have a plan to recapture our pre-pandemic momentum and make St. Catharines more affordable, accessible and accountable.
Making life in St. Catharines more affordable.
We all know that the past few years have been challenging. Now that we are emerging from the COVID pandemic, which has placed immeasurable stress on many people, families and businesses, we are collectively facing increasing living costs. Inflation continues to rise, and we all feel the impact in our everyday lives, from grocery stores to gas pumps. At the same time, interest rates continue to climb, putting pressure on us all by raising the cost of debt - especially homeowners with increasing mortgage costs. While municipal government alone cannot solve these economic challenges, as our Mayor, it is essential to demonstrate leadership and take steps to ensure our City remains affordable for those who choose to live here.
Increasing the supply of housing for families – 15,000 new units in 10 years.
We will exercise our municipal powers to leverage existing programs and create new ones that will encourage developers to build 15,000 new residential units in our City. As our Mayor, I will also work with the Region and the provincial and federal governments to make St. Catharines a focus for additional affordable housing supports. The increase in housing stock will help to meet the growing demands in our community and provide an opportunity for the next generation to live and raise their families in St. Catharines.
Supporting those who built our community and helping them stay in their homes.
With increasing inflation and interest rates on the rise, those on fixed incomes, especially seniors, have expressed concern about managing their budgets and staying in their homes. As our Mayor, I want to support those seniors to the best of my ability. I am proposing a tax increment deferral program that will provide those on fixed incomes some financial stability concerning their property taxes. The opt-in program would allow homeowners to defer future increases to their property taxes until their property is sold. This policy would effectively freeze the payment of property taxes at the current level, providing a stable and predictable bill from year to year.
Eliminating double-dipping to pay for city services.
As our Mayor, I will immediately call for a review of all City service fees and move to eliminate those that cannot be justified and are simply double-dipping in the pockets of residents. City services are budgeted and paid for through property taxes. Residents should not be charged an additional service fee when they have already contributed to that service.
Spending smarter with our Niagara Region partners.
For decades, our community has discussed rationalizing municipal governments and services across Niagara. We have waited for action from the provincial government for far too long, and the time has come for us to take action where we can. Each of our 12 Niagara municipalities, and the Region, runs similar or duplicative services, and little has been done to explore partnerships and collaborations that could save our City – and our taxpayers – valuable dollars. As our Mayor, I will work with like-minded Mayors across Niagara to strike a shared-services working group to identify and exploit opportunities for cost-saving partnerships that will help keep property taxes down and improve the services received by residents and businesses.
Accepting expert advice and implementing recommendations.
In 2019, the City received a 51-page Accountability Audit from Ernst and Young that identified 14 specific operational and transformational opportunities to generate savings, improve city services and generally enhance the City's ability to meet the growing needs of our community. As our Mayor, I will immediately strike a senior task force to operationalize these recommendations and make specific recommendations on advancing these crucial findings during the first year of the next mandate of Council.
Making our community more accessible.
One of the most frustrating things residents and businesses face is barriers when trying to access our city's services. In some cases, these barriers are physical and disadvantage particular residents. In other instances, red tape and bureaucracy prevent city services from being accessed as intended. Based on the input I have received from across our community, we must take immediate steps to improve accessibility across our community and within our governments. Some of these solutions are simple, and some may take time, but our city should not be providing services that cannot be readily accessed.
Making the region accessible to St. Catharines residents.
I have long been a transit supporter and was proud to have played a role in developing our new Regional Transit service. However, launching the service is only the first step. Now the work begins to ensure that the entire system – both regional and city transit services - is meeting the needs of our residents. These systems play multiple roles for our community – they provide access to employment and services, provide an environmental benefit over private vehicles, and help businesses access customers across the Region. As our Mayor, it will be a priority of mine to continue developing this vital community service and ensure that it remains effective and affordable for all who rely on it. This strategy must expose the next generation of transit users to a safe, effective and environmentally sustainable alternative for travelling throughout our city and the entire region. Building on the best practices of other communities, we will create a NextGen Rider program that will allow any high school student with valid student identification to access our regional transit service free of charge. Many of these students will become regular transit users later in life, increasing revenue for the system and providing additional opportunities for subsidizing future low and fixed-income riders.
Making St. Catharines accessible for business.
A common complaint from potential investors in our community is that it is too complicated to do business here. Many find barriers to access within various levels of government or from the community they wish to serve. We must recognize the need to encourage investment and growth in St. Catharines. We need more places for people to live. We need more places for people to work so they can choose to stay in St. Catharines. We need more businesses to contribute to our tax base and support the services we all enjoy. As our Mayor, I will work with City departments to develop targeted programs that encourage businesses to invest in our city. Programs will be judged on the return on investment they offer to the city and our residents.
Streamlining city service access.
Many residents and businesses have told me stories about the difficulty of accessing services, and we can take some immediate steps to reduce or eliminate barriers. These solutions can be found in the Accountability Audit that we have already paid for – we just need to move forward and implement the recommendations. The Citizens First concept launched in 2014 started us down the right path. Still, we must recognize that almost a decade later, technology has advanced, our community has changed, and we need to re-evaluate our service delivery to meet residents' needs. Technology must be updated and intuitive to allow all citizens to utilize it. Our community is diverse, and our service delivery must recognize that diversity to the best of our ability.
Modernizing the Building Department.
One of the most significant sources of contention regarding service delivery is the lack of transparency in the permitting process. Whether business owners are trying to get the necessary inspections and permits to open their doors or private residents are looking to upgrade their property, we all want access to straightforward answers and timely service. We will work to find technology solutions that will modernize our building department and allow businesses and residents to track the status of their permit applications through all stages of development.
Making all levels of government more accountable.
"Why do I only hear from politicians during elections?" That's a question I have heard a few times as I've made my way around the community - and one that shouldn't get asked. We have trusted our elected officials to represent our interests and community in the City, the Region, and the provincial and federal governments. Many residents don't appreciate which office is responsible for the most important issues, which can be frustrating and cause confusion. As our Mayor, I intend to communicate directly with residents to give them a very clear picture of what work the City is doing on their behalf. I also commit to working with and holding accountable colleagues from other levels of government to deliver on their responsibilities for our community.
Improving the lines of communication.
For many years as the Chair of the St. Catharines Budget Committee, I utilized technology to broaden our consultations' reach and get direct input from residents. The use of telephone town halls is something I will employ to speak directly to residents throughout my term in office and get real-time feedback from you on how we are progressing on our goals. Many of us are also far more familiar with virtual meetings than we were a few years ago. We should be utilizing these tools to give people access to the ongoing work of their representatives. Residents should not have to come to City Hall and sit through Council meetings to have their voices heard. As our Mayor, I will provide new opportunities to have a two-way dialogue with residents about our community. We can only move forward together if we communicate and work together.
Identifying priorities and taking action.
Our City's infrastructure comprises a complex mix of assets owned by the city and the Region and supported by funding from the federal and provincial governments. Many residents don't know which services are the responsibility of which office. Frankly, it is unrealistic to expect every resident to appreciate the distinction. I view it as part of the Mayor's role to coordinate the various levels of government and ensure they are each accountable for the funding and services they provide. Many of the issues you’ve told me are essential to you happen to be managed outside of the municipal government. We need regional and provincial support to address homelessness and the opioid crisis in our community. We need federal and provincial funding to address our infrastructure needs. We need a commitment from the Region to maintain the assets they own in our City. These are only a few examples, but as our Mayor, I will hold other officials to account and work with colleagues from different levels of government to find solutions to the issues we face. Residents should never be met with finger-pointing between levels of government but instead given clear direction as to who is responsible and how to address their needs.
Preparing for the opportunity to grow.
Far too often, the federal or provincial government makes funding available for municipal projects, and the City is left scrambling to pull together proposals to ensure our city receives its fair share. There are projects across our City that can only be completed with federal or provincial support, and we need to be ready to hit the ground running when the opportunity presents itself. As our Mayor, I will ask senior staff to advance these projects to the point of being 'shovel ready' so that our community can be the first to benefit from funding when it is announced. Additionally, working with our Regional Councilors, I will ensure that the infrastructure projects vital to St. Catharines are a priority at the Region and that the necessary investments are recognized and acted upon.
Tracking snow removal in real-time.
One of the top priorities of our residents – especially during the winter months – is the timeliness of snow removal. I understand this is always a matter of contention during significant snow events, and a great deal of time is spent at City Hall responding to questions from residents about when and how the streets close to them will receive service. Many other municipalities have invested in GPS tracking software that makes removing snow more efficient by guiding equipment drivers to the appropriate areas and allows residents to view progress in real-time. Using this technology, we can publish the snow removal routes based on priority and provide real-time data to residents who want more information.
Reviewing our services.
Over my 12 years as a City and Regional Councillor, I have learned that the need for services and how they are delivered evolves. As our Mayor, I will institute a full-service review that an external firm will conduct. Each year different departments will be reviewed on a rotating basis to ensure that all city services are examined once every four years to keep our city modern and responsive to the needs of residents.
Please consider donating to support my campaign.
Every contribution gets us closer to our goal of making St. Catharines more affordable, accessible and accountable. I know how hard you work, and I promise to respect every dollar you contribute. If you have any questions or wish to speak to someone on our team about donating, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Let’s have a conversation.
Let's continue the conversation about the future of our city. Do you have questions or comments about my plan to make St. Catharines a more affordable, accessible and accountable place to live? Please use this form to send me your thoughts, to volunteer, donate or request a lawn sign.
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