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Halton regional chair candidates: the rundown on who’s running

Halton Region
Halton Region

Three candidates are in the race for Halton's top job.

The Halton regional chair heads the 24-member regional council, composed of politicians from Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Halton Hills.

The position, which pays about $235,000 per year, has been held by Gary Carr since 2006.

As he seeks a fifth term, he's facing serious challengers in Andrea Grebenc and Jane McKenna, who both have experience in other areas of government.

Carr led Halton council through a recent official plan exercise that resulted in a contentious freeze on the region's urban boundary, limiting the growth of Milton and Halton Hills.

Politicians from Oakville and Burlington used their majority to impose the freeze on the northern municipalities, despite opposition from those communities.

Oakville, Burlington councillors accused of playing politics with the future of north Halton

The provincial government, which has final say on all municipal development, has delayed approval of the region's plan.

McKenna sat as a member of Doug Ford's government until her announcement last spring that she would seek the regional chair position. She promises to "ensure responsible growth while protecting the environment, farmland and greenspace."

Despite the region's $850 million operating budget, both Carr and McKenna have threadbare platforms and campaign websites offering little more than vague and general promises.

Both also skipped all three debate opportunities for regional chair candidates, including two Oakville all-candidate meetings last week.

Grebenc did take part in the all-candidate meetings, answering questions on her platform. She has focused her campaign on issues including regional transit, waste management, long-term care and affordable housing.

Halton Regional Chair candidates

Gary Carr

Describing himself as a "strong, experienced leader with a proven track record," Carr emphasizes Halton's safety, financial stability and quality of life.

Before his 2006 election to Halton regional council, Carr served as an Oakville MPP, speaker of the Ontario legislature and a Halton MP.

"Moving forward, I will continue to help support community safety and well-being, grow the regional economy, protect our natural heritage, environmental sustainability, keeping taxes low, and preserve our strong financial position." 

Andrea Grebenc

A Halton school board trustee for the last eight years, Grebenc served as board chair from 2018-2021.

Professionally, she is a computer programmer who owns an information technology business and teaches web design and development at McMaster University.

She notes that both the school board and region have annual operating budgets of about $850 million and that the jobs demand similar skills.

"I am used to collaborating with fellow trustees, creating and moving towards a strategic vision for the organization. I am used to working with and advocating to different levels of government to push back on policies that don't make sense in the local context," she says.

DA Photography
DA Photography

Her top three issues:

Affordable housing: We have priced housing out of the reach of our own children. We need people of all income stripes living in Halton, or we will see cascading detrimental issues around small businesses and available public and private services. This will need to be tackled by multiple levels of government working together.

Social housing: I have come across people living in Halton's subsidized housing who are dealing with bedbugs, mould and rats and landlords that threaten eviction if tenants complain. Our money is supporting this! We need good communication channels put in place for people using Halton's social housing and good basic standards that must be followed by landlords.

Moving to a regional transit model: We are currently using a municipal transit model that is not serving people as well as a regional model could. If you live in Oakville and want to take public transit to work in Milton, you must take a GO bus to Mississauga and transfer to another to go to Milton. We are attracting people to Halton with a transit-first attitude from places like Toronto, and they are disappointed to find that they need a car to get around in Halton. This contributes to gridlock and our collective carbon footprint. Transit needs to be efficient, effective and attractive. Other regions do this now; let's find best practices and implement them here.

Jane McKenna

A two-term Progressive Conservative MPP for Burlington, McKenna has a background in advertising and previously ran her own small business.

"A lack of leadership at Halton Region has created a divided Council, pitting north against south. This must change. Since February, I've heard from thousands of residents who are committed to making our communities better. Halton Region needs to better engage residents and focus decision-making on achieving consistent results regardless of where you live."

Halton Region needs fresh, new leadership that is strategic and focused on moving our communities forward, together. A strong team Halton will:

  • Ensure responsible growth while protecting the environment, farmland and greenspace
  • Grow our economy and create more local jobs
  • Rebuild partnerships with the federal and provincial governments to attract investment and focus on local priorities