KITCHENER -- Regional Chair Karen Redman presented the second annual State of the Region address virtually on Friday morning, reflecting on what has been a challenging year while looking towards the future.

CTV Kitchener’s Nicole Lampa hosted the online event, introducing the speakers and moderating a ‘Fireside Chat’ with Redman following her address.

“We faced challenges we never could have imagined, but we continued to show resiliency for which we are known,” said Redman in her opening remarks.

While she noted that 2020 had been incredibly difficult, she also focused on hope, “because we have a vaccine, several vaccines in fact.”

Her address included a four minute video that focused on the unique challenges the region has faced this year, shining a light on the work of public health officials and other essential workers during the pandemic.

The chat between Lampa and Redman took place following the video, covering a number of hot button issues in the community, including the Black Lives Matter movement that took centre stage over the summer.

“I’ve never seen this level of civic engagement,” said Redman.

She noted that as a result of the movement, the region formed an advisory committee to tackle racism and the unique challenges faced by BIPOC individuals in the community.

Other topics addressed included mental health, homelessness and affordable housing. Redman noted the region’s work with community groups on the local shelter system during the pandemic.

“We housed 80 people that had been unsheltered going into the pandemic,” she said.

Redman also said that the ION LRT expansion into Cambridge is moving forward as planned. With the environmental assessment underway, followed by plans to submit applications for federal and provincial funding.

Lampa also pushed Redman on the vaccination rollout in Waterloo Region, asking if she felt the task force was working quickly enough, especially in comparison to the plan laid out by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

Redman responded saying that while the region has had its issues, including shortages of the vaccine, she has confidence in the region’s plan.

“It’s not a race and the wildcard will continue to be the supply of vaccines,” said Redman.

Lampa also asked about the derogatory and racist comments that have been waged at public health officials over the course of the pandemic.

“There is no place for racist remarks, there is no place for uncivility and people need to call it out,” said Redman. “They are there to protect us.”

When asked what four words she would use to describe our region, Redman said, “We are resilient. We are Innovative. We are connected and we will persevere.”

Attendees were also able to explore a number of virtual booths online ahead of the address. Each booth included videos on topics like business supports, sustainable transportation, affordable housing, and equity and diversity.