Stephanie Stretch is a City Councillor Candidate in Kitchener, Ontario. Steph is a lifelong Kitchener resident. She was born and raised in the Rosemount neighbourhood and has deep roots in Ward 1. Steph is dedicated to building a stronger, sustainable community.
Why did you decide to run?
I want to see greater community involvement and better representation in political decision making. I want people to be heard and responded to. I want to hear from you about what’s important for our neighbourhood and our city. I believe you are valuable and an important part of the community and I want to use my advocacy skills to represent you at city council.
We want change, but settle on our leaders as “good enough”; we seek fairness and hope, yet funding cuts and decisions are being made in fear; we seek equality and justice, but can only see fear and differences.
As we face these contradictions, now is the time for local leadership to prioritize community and collaboration. When change starts local, it is more sustainable. We need to focus on bringing people together to build on our solid foundation. My goal is to work with you to create a strong local community where your city and neighbourhood, is a place you love to live in. A place you can help shape, and a community where you belong.
What is your favourite thing to do in your community?
My favourite thing to do in the community is to build meaningful relationships. Relationships in my own family and out in the community. The relationships I build when going to the library with my kids, playing at the park, walking to work, shopping at the market, playing sports and adventuring outside are important and make us all have a greater sense of belonging. Sharing in reciprocal relationships with diverse community members can create a more authentic and sustainable change on a political level. Being represented by someone you feel comfortable contacting is one of the first steps in having your voice heard.
Tell us about the greatest challenges your community faces?
The ‘politics of division’ is on display. Some of our local and world leaders have ridden these policies to political victory and occupy popular positions of power.
While I am privileged and proud to be part of a diverse community with a history of working together, we must continue to validate this vision of our city and our neighbourhoods by focusing on our strengths and celebrating our differences. Our communities are not immune to the divisive practices of some, but when we value collaboration, listening to one another, and richness of voice, we are likely to repel attacks on our collective identity and emerge with an even greater appreciation of one another.
What would you do to improve women's health in your community?
Women’s mental, physical and spiritual health, a women’s agency and understanding where her body is concerned, and women’s access to suitable healthcare are all pressing issues in our local and wider communities. While I applaud the evolution of our national healthcare program towards a more inclusive and nuanced system - progress on the issues of women’s health overall seems egregiously slow. We must continue to fight for equality in gender representation where decisions about access to - and education about - health care are being made.
There is an urgency to the continued improvement of women’s health in our community, and the impact of local policy on women’s health is a question I fear is not being considered in every instance. I will actively represent women and women’s health at a municipal level, and beyond. There are local agencies like the Sexual Assault Support Centre and the Regions Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre out of Carizon that will have my ear and my support as they continue to do their important work.
What would you do to improve women's economic security in your community?
We know that women make less money than men for equal work; this wage disparity is embarrassing and oppressive. Not only that, but we know that regularly women “stack” disparate work and wide-ranging responsibility without meaningful compensation or recognition. How we value and identify work needs an overhaul, and current systems of governance are not concerned with the urgency of gender equity. I can commit to examining our community’s economies as a proponent of women’s economic security. We have to keep asking questions about the state of our economic inclusiveness, and fight for equality for women in the traditional workplace - as well as recognition of women’s contributions in our wider economic and social spheres. As an elected official I know that my voice will be afforded weight, and I intend to weigh in on issues of equality at every opportunity.
What would you do to improve women's safety in your community?
I’m deeply disturbed by our province’s roll-back of the sexual education curriculum. Women’s safety in our community begins with education. It is a serious overarching misstep - with local implications - to deny our students a nuanced understanding of their bodies, the richness of gender-diversity in their neighbourhoods, and the knowledge to keep themselves safe by way of informed self-determination.
I will encourage the continued education of men and women, and the complexities of our social interactions in our present-day reality. When the school system does not represent women fully in the sexual education curriculum, we are beholden to our community to represent the fullness of women in every other forum.