Meet Kathryn

Mayor Kathryn McGarry is a solutions-oriented leader working collaboratively with families, local businesses, community leaders and other levels of government to make Cambridge a better place to live.

Early Life and Community Involvement

She grew up the eldest of three girls whose parents worked tirelessly as volunteers, giving back to their neighbours. Their service to family and community had a profound impact on Kathryn. She wanted to help others, which led to her 35-year career as a Registered Nurse. She worked at Sick Kids, Cambridge Memorial, and Grand River hospitals, providing care to patients in Emergency, Intensive Care, patients homes and as a Care Coordinator assessing patients for community care services. 

Kathryn and her family moved to Cambridge in 1988, as Fred was a commercial developer, developing and then leasing buildings at 695, 715 and 725 Coronation Blvd and 149 Ainslie St. She became active in the community. Continuous engagement as a volunteer allowed her to contribute to many community Boards, Task Forces and Committees, in social services, heritage, environment, health care, crime prevention and planning related sectors. 

Kathryn also cared for palliative patients in Cambridge. In 1993, noting the lack of palliative care services in Waterloo Region as they also cared for a child with life threatening illness, she took action. Kathryn and her husband Fred joined others and founded the Hospice of Waterloo Region, enhancing end of life care services for  families for the last 29 years.

 While working at the Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Kathryn arranged a critical meeting between the Minister of Infrastructure and the CEO in December 2010, which ultimately led to the successful Provincial approval and funding for the long awaited  expansion of the hospital. The new wing opened in January 2020, a few weeks ahead of the COVID19 pandemic!

During her time as President of Heritage Cambridge, Kathryn led a team that restored the iconic, provincially significant Sheave Tower in Blair. Under her Leadership, Heritage Cambridge re-established an annual Heritage House Tour, raising funds and awareness of our valuable heritage resources, and made a successful request to the City to designate the world’s oldest continuously operated arena, Galt Arena Gardens. Kathryn chaired the Dickson Hill Heritage District Conservation Study and the City’s Heritage Master Plan. Additionally, she was a regular delegate at Cambridge City Council.

MPP and Cabinet Minister

She was elected as MPP for Cambridge in 2014 where she fought for and delivered about $200 million in funding for schools, not-for-profits, infrastructure and local businesses, retaining and creating good local jobs for people in Cambridge. This attracted further investment. Kathryn worked closely with companies including Toyota, Frito Lay, Cambridge Brass, Heroux Devtec, Desch, Kromet, Dare, and Grand River Brewing, securing important government investments that brought good, local jobs and revenue to Cambridge.

In 2014, Kathryn was appointed as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation, handling the reform of public transportation projects and strengthening provincial legislation for cycling, distracted driving and road safety. She was appointed to Cabinet as the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry where she passed legislation modernizing the Aggregate Resources Act and Conservation Authorities Act. As Minister, she delivered on her mandate to map the Province’s Natural Heritage Areas, complete the Biodiversity Strategy, and strengthened protections for threatened and endangered species. 

Later she served as Ontario’s Minister of Transportation. In that role, she secured funding for a study as the first step in establishing a connection from Cambridge to the GO train network through Guelph. She continues now to advocate for Metrolinx funding for this GO train link. She ensured that Cambridge received funds for improved cycling routes, as part of a significant fund of $125 Million, for cycling infrastructure across Ontario. She delivered on a separated cycling/pedestrian route across Franklin Blvd bridge over the 401 and uploaded the cost to the Province, rather than the Region. The new Hespeler bridge is currently underway and adding the same separated facility. She also ensured the expansion of the 401 through Cambridge was funded and got underway. As Minister, Kathryn passed legislation to allow for the Automated Speed Enforcement Cameras in our communities.

Mayor of Cambridge

Since Kathryn was elected as the Mayor of Cambridge, she has brought a new style of collaborative leadership to City Hall, strengthening relationships with Regional Council, the Provincial and Federal Governments, Ontario’s Big City Mayors, AMO and the Auto Mayors Caucus of Ontario.  She is a Regional representative on Crime Prevention Council, and assisted in planning a new direction alongside Community Justice Initiatives to become a centre of excellence for Restorative Justice. Kathryn sits on the Board of GRCA where many changes have been initiated from the Provincial Govt. 

Working with Council and the Economic Development team, Kathryn delivered on more jobs and businesses for Cambridge. More investment, and more businesses setting up shop or expanding, generates prosperity for Cambridge.

This term, we have all faced the most challenging time in our history, when the Covid19 pandemic hit early in 2020. As part of the Region’s Pandemic Control Group managing this public health crisis, Kathryn’s experience as a nurse trained in community disasters and as a previous Minister responsible for the Emergency Services of Ontario, helped her to guide the region’s residents and businesses through this crisis. The City adopted a cost containment strategy early on to help counteract the reduced revenue from closing down all recreation programs and alongside other Heads of Council, successfully lobbied for funding to help offset the cost of the pandemic.  Kathryn is proud of residents and businesses who stepped up to help others during this challenging time.

Under her leadership,  Cambridge is finally moving ahead with a new recreation complex, updating and building more arenas, new soccer fields, establishing new pickle-ball facilities, disc golf course, a national archery range, and improving local parks and trails. “Onward to Cambridge!” was a rallying cry at the opening of the LRT in Kitchener, for Phase 2 LRT to Cambridge. The route is now established and planning is underway, also connecting the School of Architecture students with the Waterloo University campus.

The city is also increasing public safety by supporting the work of our police and mental health professionals while introducing cameras in the Preston core, and enhancing City Bylaw resources. Kathryn sought needed assistance from the Region for the Cambridge Shelter Corporation, which led to needed changes in the ED and Board governance. The City’s ambassador team assists in connecting individuals with services. As a Regional Councillor, Kathryn supported the increase in the police budget so they were able to hire over 30 more front line officers. Kathryn successfully directed regional staff to lower road speeds near every school in our community, necessary as not all school zones were 40 km/hr.

The Community Well-being Advisory Committee spearheaded by Kathryn is engaging with the community to find Cambridge-made solutions to homelessness, mental health and substance use, and community safety issues, while creating new opportunities for youth and older adults. Strategies for upstream prevention are also being discussed.

Working with regional, provincial and federal partners, Kathryn has led Council to help create more affordable housing spaces and more new housing options to deliver on our regional homelessness strategy, so we can ensure every one of us has a safe place to call home in Cambridge. 

As the Shareholder for EnergyPlus, Kathryn saw the opportunity of a merger with Brantford Power when it was presented early in 2019. Working closely with a team from both utilities, consultants and the three mayors, eventually joint Council meetings were set up to endorse the merger. The successful merger was completed in May. This will stabilize the cost of electricity for 10 years and  potentially increase the City’s dividend, as the largest Shareholder of GrandBridge Energy.

Kathryn received the Cambridge YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Volunteerism and Humanitarianism in 2009, and the Bernice Adam’s Special Trustee Award in 2011. She was honoured to receive the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pin recently. Her husband now works as a software developer. They have been married for over 30 years and remain deeply rooted in Cambridge. Together they have six children – Rory, Geordie, (passed away in 2021), Jenny, Alex, Liam and Declan and have three grandchildren.