Race is on for Hamilton city council in Ward 5
June 29, 2022
Nominations don’t close until Aug. 18, but three candidates are already vying for what will be a vacant Ward 5 seat on city council in this fall’s municipal election.
Olivia Divinski, Matt Francis and Bob Hurst all live in the ward and are political newcomers, although Divinski and Hurst were among 21 people who applied to replace 26-year incumbent Chad Collins after he became the area’s Liberal MP in September.
Council appointed former Dundas councillor and Liberal MP Russ Powers, who agreed not to run in the Oct. 24 municipal election.
Ward 5 includes the area between the Red Hill Valley Parkway in east Hamilton and Gray Road in Stoney Creek, as well as the beach strip.
Francis, 32, the first candidate to register, said he left his job in the city’s clerk’s department after eight years to run full-time and work for constituents “every single day.”
The married father of two said he’s already shown that by gathering 650 names on a petition opposing a city decision, ultimately reversed, to cancel Battle of Stoney Creek re-enactments.
Francis said he’s also started a petition against paid parking in downtown Stoney Creek and been going door to door, hearing concerns about plans for residential towers at Eastgate Square and new rules allowing homes to be converted into fourplexes.
“I care deeply about the future of our community. I also know firsthand how city hall operates and I want to create a more efficient and transparent municipal government,” he said.
Francis said although he was Collins’ campaign co-ordinator in the federal election, he has no political affiliation and won’t bring party politics to city hall.
“People expect their councillor to make representing their constituents their first priority,” he said.
Divinski, a 51-year-old senior law clerk and mother of two grown children, said she’s always wanted to run for council.
“I’m a well-spoken, strong individual, not easily bullied, that’s for sure, very honest -- sometimes too honest,” she said.
“I think our ward is very quiet because it’s a great ward, but I want to reach people. If there’s people out there that want to connect with me, I want that. I want people’s ideas. I want to know what bugs people about our area.”
Divinski said she supports the light rail transit line between McMaster University and Eastgate Square, although it will be a logistical “nightmare” to build.
She said Hamilton is growing quickly and needs to push public transit, including by making it more accessible and affordable.
“I know a lot of people are against the LRT and, unfortunately, it’s too far into fruition. It’s going to happen,” Divinski said. “My goal, though, would be to make sure it happens in budget, on time and meets expectations.”
Hurst, 43, who is a Canada Revenue Agency service agent and member of his daughter’s elementary school council, said he feels “called” to get involved with his community.
He said he backs council’s support for the LRT and doesn’t understand why some councillors continue to fight the decision.
“We need to make sure that we maintain a united front once a decision has been made and that we’re sticking together to make sure it’s the most effective from a cost standpoint, planning standpoint and benefit of the city,” he said.
Hurst said he’d be a good councillor because he’s a good listener and considers other perspectives.
One issue he said he’d like to tackle is the rise in pedestrian deaths, which he believes needs a multifaceted approach that includes a public awareness campaign.
“We can change speed limits on some roads or we can change Main Street to two-way, but that’s still not going to do much to necessarily change the attitudes of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.
“At times, people in all those walks aren’t doing what they really could do to make sure everybody else is safe.”