Waterloo regional chair takes flak at debate on LRT, growing debt
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WATERLOO REGION — Wednesday may not have been the best day to be the incumbent Region of Waterloo chair.
At an electoral debate organized by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Regional Chair Ken Seiling took some jabs from two candidates vying for his job in the Oct. 27 election.
Jay Aissa and Moira-Sharon Magee were responsible for most of the digs, focusing on the region’s growing debt and light rail transit.
The Regional Municipality of Waterloo’s debt has more than doubled since 2009, increasing from $185 million to $428 million in 2013.
By the end of this year, another $120 million will be added to the bill.
“We didn’t even build the LRT yet. … Are we going to add another $500 million of debt?” Aissa said.
Seiling responded by pointing to the region’s triple-A credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service.
It’s the highest credit rating a municipality can receive.
“Our debt levels are reasonable,” he said.
In February, Moody’s said that regional debt for construction projects planned over the next 10 years could affect its triple-A credit rating if cash and investment levels continued to drop.
But the region’s debt level is still below average, its operations stable, and debt expected to be manageable, said the report.
“When I get my credit rating I know that I can go out and rack up $120,000 in debt,” said Magee. “But I haven’t done that because I know the money will have to come from somewhere.”
Another candidate for chair, John Wolf, said while the debt is concerning, the region has done a pretty good job delivering services. Paul Myles and Oscar Cole Arnal are also candidates.
“We need to find a way to keep doing the things we’re doing and pay down the debt,” he said.
More than $100 million in debt has already been issued to help pay for rapid transit.
The project will cost $1.9 billion over 30 years for design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance. See page 14