Waterloo, Kitchener residents celebrate start of 2023 with community events

New year’s levee parties in the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo brought in residents of all ages over the weekend.

Attendees like Najia Murtaza, enjoyed a variety of food, games and live music. Murtaza says attending the kickoff party helps them feel more connected to city council members.

“It makes us feel included in the whole system of the city and gives us a chance to educate our kids as they grow up and understand what the city is about.”

Waterloo resident Trevor McCarther was there for the free ice skating activities with his daughters Elsie and Gabriella.

“I know the kids like crafts and carnival stuff,” he said, “I’m celebrating the new year with a skate and came out to see city councillors and the mayor.”

Mushota Olaatanda enjoyed the new years’ festivities at Kitchener City Hall with her husband Timi Olaatanda and their three children Dolapo, Seun and Tola.

“They’re so happy here! They want to go see some of the games, but they saw the food first,” she said. “They wanted popcorn, but when they saw the cotton candy, they didn’t care for the popcorn anymore. Now they’re going to be on a sugar high I guess!”

Event has new name in Waterloo

Starting this year, the City of Waterloo has decided to steer away from calling the annual community event a levee.

“We decided to change the name because the history of levees is very colonial,” said Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe.

“It’s tied to the fur trade and the military and some things that are a few hundred years old. We thought, ‘let’s call it what it is’. It’s council inviting the community to come out, meet us, meet their neighbors and the start of the new year.”

The event is now called the Waterloo Council Kickoff Party, while Kitchener still calls the party a New Years’ Levee.

Here are pictures from the community events that took place in Kitchener and Waterloo:

Top priority is affordable housing

Mayor McCabe said her top priority going into 2023 is housing.

“Not just supportive and affordable housing, but also attainable housing for people who are finishing school and we want them to stay in our community,” she said.

“The housing challenge is also wrapped up in the climate challenge. We need to build these homes, but we need to do it in a way that will reduce carbon, use renewable energies, use energy more efficiently, intensify our community so people are better able to walk, cycle, roll around our community in those 15-minute type neighborhoods.”

Ahmed Murtaza, a Waterloo resident who attended the kickoff party, said housing is a top concern for him as well.

“When they [new immigrants] come into the Region of Waterloo, what is the region thinking about, specifically the City of Waterloo where we live? How are we going to expand? How are those people going to live with so much inflation around? What are the city’s plans to accommodate for all those changes happening?”

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