A love of community and a desire to get more involved led to Kevin Kruchkywich’s decision to run for Stratford city council.
A Stratford Festival actor and handyman who works in homes in the theatre’s off-season, Kruchkywich ran for the NDP in the Perth-Wellington riding in the last federal election. Though unsuccessful, he learned a lot about the issues that affect the area, Stratford specifically, he said.
Kruchkywich said he has observed a level of anger around the current council, however, while he doesn’t carry any animus towards the current group at city hall, there is work to do, he said.
“My impetus: this is an important transition point for this city, it is growing and changing and becoming more diverse,” he told StratfordToday. “The city is getting younger. I think over these next terms of council, decisions need to be made about what this city will become in the next 50 years.”
Originally from Alberta, Kruchkywich and his wife moved to Stratford ten years ago from Vancouver, needing a change of pace and better quality of life. It’s an amazing community, he said, but one that has become “incredibly pricey, really quickly”, effectively pricing working-class people out of the market.
“If we allow that to continue, we will become a very old, very privileged, very elite and quickly dying community. That just can’t be. We are a vibrant community because of all of the people we have here.”
“It is an important time, a time when we really need to look at what we are doing with infrastructure, what we are doing with affordable housing, how we are enticing younger families and more diverse people to come to this community. We have jobs. We just have no place for people to live.”
Kruchkywich said city council needs to carefully consider how they approach investment and decide what kind of industrial businesses they want to attract to the community while focusing on how to provide affordable residences.
Kruchkywich said provincial and federal levels of government needs to help as well, but at the municipal level, government power comes from zoning, enticing the right projects and proper land usage.
“My push will be to understand that and try to be successful in enticing sustainable and affordable development and density within the city. Instead of expanding and eating up farmland, we need to start from the centre out, retrofit what we have, infill where we can in a smart and sustainable way.”
Always politically minded, Kruchkywich said his unique life experiences as a working actor – he appears in Hamlet and Death and the King’s Horseman this Stratford Festival season – combined with working on homes in the off-season, allows him to interact with a diverse cross section of the city.
He emphasized the need to listen to all ideas.
“There is a sharp learning curve for someone who is new to (council), and to figure out how to work within the system, to push it in a way we want to go, it has to start with humility, it has to start with open ears and an open heart to every idea, whether I agree with it or not I need to listen to it, give it its due diligence and work hard for the people in this community.”
Kruchkywich said city council work part time and have the best interests of citizens at heart. Thought he has heard comments about the current group at city hall, he insisted that their work should be respected.
“Anyone stepping up and doing the job is doing it out of a sense of service for this community and doing it out of a sense of what they think is right… if you agree with their intentions or not I understand that, but people are working hard to try and make this community better.”
Next month’s election is a pivotal time for the city, he said, with a lot of turnover (a new mayor, five open council seats) and an opportunity to get “fresh ideas” presented at city council.
“This is an exciting time for Stratford. Council is in the process of looking at the official plan. It is a real opportunity to create a strong vision for what we want this city to be. That should involve everyone and everyone should have a say in what we want this community to become.”