Six questions with Oren Nimelman, candidate for Portsmouth District

Oren Nimelman, candidate for Portsmouth District in the 2022 City of Kingston municipal election. Submitted photo.

Editorial note:

Across the province, Ontarians are getting ready to cast their ballots in every city, town, and county as the 2022 Municipal Election is fast approaching. With election day on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, Kingstonist has reached out to all candidates within the City of Kingston to create profiles allowing voters to find a brief overview of each candidate in one place. As response comes in, more and more candidate profiles will be added here, which you can access through our Municipal Election 2022 section (with the tab on the homepage), or through our ‘Candidate overview landing page.’

With 45 candidates in total for Kingston City Council alone – and with only one district acclaimed (Countryside District will once again be represented by Gary Oosterhof) and six districts without an incumbent – our goal is to provide as much information as possible leading up to the elections. Thus, we will endeavour to collect response from as many Kingston candidates as possible, with the hope of providing similar coverage for Loyalist Township, Frontenac County, and the Town of Greater Napanee moving forward. All relevant links will be available under the Municipal Election 2022 tab.

For more general information on election process in Kingston, including details on electing Board of Education Trustees, ensuring you are registered to vote, etc., visit the City of Kingston Municipal Elections webpage.

Candidate profiles are being published on our website in no particular order.

Oren Nimelman is no stranger to election campaigns. Last fall, he was heavily involved in the NDPer Vic Sahai’s federal race, and was out of town for two months to support Drew Cumpson’s provincial NDP campaign in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston earlier this year.

This is his first time running for a political seat himself, though he has lived in Kingston for “pretty much” his whole adult life, beginning in 2010. “I came to Kingston on my own at 21, with my family spread across Guelph, Toronto, Winnipeg, and overseas,” he shared.

In his younger years, Nimelman fostered dogs and volunteered with the Kingston Humane Society. He also used to work in the restaurant industry, but said his job title now is “Operations Management.” He noted that his community involvement is mainly through the Kingston NDP, “pushing for progressive issues in Kingston.”

When asked for a “fun fact” he said, “I have the only labrador that won’t swim and needs to be goaded into eating his dinner. Scout’s a complete bafflement to me, but he’s the biggest sweetheart. He’s a rescue, so I never got to see what he was like as a puppy, but he’s very obviously kept the urge to go make friends with every single person and dog he comes across.”

How would you describe your personal political ideology and/or affiliation?

While there aren’t party affiliations in the council race, I’m on the Kingston NDP Riding Association Executive and align heavily with the NDP. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, given my focus on rebuilding a robust social housing program.

What made you want to run in this municipal election?

As a tenant in Kingston, I’m sharply aware of just how much of a crisis our city has created when it comes to housing. It was also very clear to me that Portsmouth District had progressive candidates and viable candidates, but none who are both.

What are the three most common issues voters are bringing up to you as you campaign?

  1. Housing .
  2. The dire need to address our climate emergency.
  3. How disgraceful our transportation infrastructure has become.

What three issues are most pressing/important to address locally, in your opinion?

My emphases on housing and climate are the same as what I’m hearing at the doors. 

What I’d like to see as a growing local topic is just how much of our recent job growth has been non-unionized work that pays employees too little to keep up with basic costs. We’re not alone in suffering from inflation, but poor policy decisions by conservatives and centrists have absolutely created a situation where a growing number of workers are living precariously enough for moderate inflation to swallow them whole. As councillor, I’ll support local businesses whose frontline staff earn a living wage or are unionized.

What is the most pressing issue in your district?

The most pressing issue in Portsmouth applies just as broadly city-wide: Housing is in crisis. 

Due to years of poor policy decisions, we have one of the worst housing shortages in the country. In the middle of a health care collapse, I personally know two nurses who had to move and couldn’t find a place to rent. They now live at their parents’ home in a different city, providing health care elsewhere.

Millennials and Gen Z Kingstonians are increasingly trapped in a tenancy cycle where they’re bleeding out to their landlords what should have been a margin of savings. Many, at the mercy of landlords’ eviction whims, are postponing starting families in the hopes of finding future stability.

With a home purchase market that’s so growingly skewed toward the speculative investment of the already rich, we’re seeing more young Kingstonians shut out of the security of homeownership. Simply put: I don’t want policy that guarantees that my grandchildren will spend their whole lives paying high rent in properties that Mark Gerretsen’s grandchildren inherited.

We need to address the housing shortage aggressively, negotiate a higher percentage of affordable units in new builds, ban nearly all entire-home AirBNBs, and create resources to help tenants who are fighting disrepair or illegal eviction. Most importantly, Kingston needs to begin engaging in projects to create rental housing, on a large scale, with zero profit margin.

What do you feel sets you apart from other candidates?

Of the candidates’ platforms that are available, I’m the only candidate who will both fight against anti-density NIMBYism and work to create more protections for increasingly-desperate tenants.

For more information on Oren Nimelman, candidate for Portsmouth District in the 2022 municipal election, visit his website, or get in touch by phone at 613-532-8487.

With files from Cris Vilela.

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