Taproot Edmonton has sent a wide ranging, 30 question survey to all council candidates in this election. See our answers (along with some expanded commentary) here.
Q1: How much should the city spend to help local business recover from the pandemic?
- Current support is sufficient
Expanded Answer: recovery of local businesses during and following the pandemic is going to rely on more than just investment from the City of Edmonton. It will require federal and provincial, as well as private investment to ensure a fulsome recovery. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that the appropriate resources are dedicated to our business community but also lobby the provincial government to ensure their programs are as robust as possible.
Q2: Is the city’s current approach to encouraging economic diversification heading in the right direction?
- No, the city should put more resources behind nurturing homegrown business.
Expanded Answer: Diversification of our economy and encouragement of our homegrown businesses would have a positive impact on our community across the city. The City of Edmonton should be doing more to encourage local business owners, with innovative ideas, to set up shop and put the resources behind them to ensure they are successful.
Q3: Do you support the Downtown Vibrancy Strategy released in June?
- Yes, and we should fully fund the plan
Expanded Answer: The downtown is our city’s heart and any healthy heart has benefits for the rest of the body, so a healthy, vibrant, accessible and welcoming downtown is crucial to ensuring that we have a healthy, vibrant, accessible and welcoming city. However, it is crucial that the Whyte Ave area be considered part of the city core and included in the city vibrancy strategy. For too long, Whyte Ave has been ignored by the city as all the attention and resources have gone to areas north of the river. Edmonton has to promote both sides of our core.
Q4: What do you think of the Community Energy Transition Strategy and action plan?
- It’s a strong plan; we just need to follow it.
Expanded Answer: The updated Community Energy Transition Strategy is a start to ensuring that the City of Edmonton is able to build a more climate-resilient community and respond to the impacts of climate change. The fact that Council updated the plan to include targets that are in alignment with the Paris Accord is an important first step. We just need to follow it, implement it, and ensure that we respond to this challenge.
Q5: Should effects on the climate be taken into account in every decision city council makes?
- Yes, every decision has climate implications.
Expanded Answer: As a city, we must meet the challenge of the climate crisis by committing to accelerated actions. Through energy transition we can change the climate emergency into an economic climate opportunity. So yes, every decision has climate implications because every decision is an opportunity to respond and build better for the future.
Q6: Do you think city council should have approved the EPCOR E.L. Smith Solar Farm?
- No, I support solar power but that’s the wrong location.
Q7: What do you think the city’s main fiscal challenge is?
- The city has limited ability to raise revenues
Expanded Answer: The city’s hands are tied in its ability to raise revenues and as a result of cuts by the UCP to the city’s MSI grants, their unwillingness to pay fair market taxes on their property and generally attacking municipalities every chance they get we are forced to make hard decisions in order to balance our budget.
Now is not the time for cutbacks or privatization, we can strengthen public services and put the public interest first in our budgets and decisions without having to make decisions that impact these services negatively. Being more efficient in where and how we spend tax dollars will ensure that we can continue to make Edmonton a great place to live, a city that is affordable, accessible, with quality transit, libraries, parks, and recreation facilities.
Q8: What do you think the city’s revenue split between residential and business taxes?
- The current mix is acceptable
Expanded: 56% of the City of Edmonton’s revenue is generated from residential and business property taxes. COVID-19 impacted revenues generated by the city both through property taxes and user fees and facility rentals. However, the split is less important than taking a proactive approach to encouraging new growth and identifying new ways to generate revenue. We can do this by being innovative in the types of businesses we attract to Edmonton, such as technology companies and other industrial businesses - this not only generates tax revenue but creates jobs. Diversifying our revenue streams takes the burden off of residential and business property owners and helps ensure sustainable budgets well into the future.
Q9: What do you think of the size of the city’s workforce?
- The city has about the right number of employees.
Expanded Answer: I think the city has about the right number of employees but we have seen a trend over the years of administration relying on contractors who have little accountability to citizens and Council. As stated above we should not be privatizing services and this extends to how we staff and support initiatives. Where possible we should be bringing services back in house so that when something goes wrong, or doesn’t work residents have recourse and Council has accountability for oversight.
Housing and Homelessness
Q10: How should the city approach the provision of affordable housing?
- The city should build more affordable housing, even if it can’t get funding from other orders of government.
Expanded Answer: The city has an important role to play in ensuring that all communities have affordable housing options for all income levels. This will ensure that our communities are vibrant, safe and inclusive places to live. I will be a strong voice at council and with other levels of government in advocating for the investment in and development of affordable housing options.
Q11: Should the city expand its Housing First programs?
- Yes, Housing First is the right approach and we need more of it.
Expanded Answer: We have spent too much money on the downstream consequences of policing because of a lack of permanent supportive housing and investment in prevention. We can be effective leaders in reducing overall costs and generating human and community wellbeing at the same time. We can ensure adequate and appropriate housing options are available for those in need and address issues like addiction and mental health at the same time. People shouldn’t be penalized and have housing withheld because of illness.
Q12: How should the city address encampments?
- Encampments should be allowed if there are no other better housing options available.
Expanded Answer: Encampments are a symptom not a problem. If someone chooses to sleep outside in a tent rather than access shelter services then we need to start listening to them and figure out what is preventing them from accessing the services that are available to them. Investing in more affordable housing is one part of the solution, however, understanding why existing services are not accessible or appealing is another.
Q13: Which statement best describes your opinion of city council’s zoning decisions?
- Council has been too flexible under pressure from developers.
Q14: Do you support the city’s current approach to infill?
Expanded Answer: I support the City Plan but we need to ensure that it is implemented with an equity lens and we pace change appropriately to make the plan a reality for all Edmontonians. Sometimes infills do change the character of neighbourhoods, sometimes they do impact housing prices and cause gentrification to speed up in certain places. We need to be thoughtful about how we achieve the goals of the City Plan and infills and where they go are just one piece of that. We need to work on the enforcement of “how” an infill is built and police bad builders. We need better engagement of communities in the process.
Q15: How should council bring the 15-minutes districts described in the City Plan to life?
- Council should use every tool at its disposal, including financial penalties and incentives.
Expanded Answer: I have led initiatives such as the Living Local Strategy that helped empower neighbourhoods across Edmonton. I am a strong supporter of the concept of 15 minute communities and that means ensuring that what gets built in our communities is right for communities.
Q16: Which statement best captures your beliefs about racism and the Edmonton Police Serivce?
- Systemic racism is apparent throughout the EPS
Q17: What should be done about the police budget?
- Decrease it somewhat
Expanded Answer: The same amount of funding should be allocated, just not to EPS. There may be better ways (that might even be more affordable) to provide services people need. All budgets should be scrutinized to ensure that when decisions are made on spending that they impact the greatest number of people, protect public services and facilitate safe, vibrant and affordable communities. The police budget is no different.
There are a lot of social services that are currently provided by the EPS (mental health checks for example) that could easily be conducted by civil society organizations that are more efficient in providing those services, work closer with impacted communities and are less expensive - these preventative measures can divert people from the criminal justice system and decrease the need for police involvement altogether. We should pursue every opportunity to shift non-police activities away from the police and into the hands of civil society organizations who work in that area. Doing this will significantly impact the budget of the EPS and overall will have positive societal outcomes.
Q18: When police request funding for capital projects, how should council respond?
- Council should closely scrutinize all requests
Politics and governance
Q19: Should candidates disclose their donors?
- Yes, before the election
Expanded Answer: The province should amend the municipal election legislation to ensure that all candidates are required to release information about their donors. Transparency in this regard is very important to ensuring that voters know who is supporting who before they vote. This requirement should be applied to all candidates with the same requirements and standards.
Q20: Should city council continue to have a code of conduct
- Yes, but the current one is not doing the job.
Q21: Do referendum questions and Senate votes belong on municipal ballots?
- I accept the principle but object to some or all of these additions
Quality of Life
Q22: How much should the city spend to help the arts sector recover from the pandemic?
- It should spend more
Expanded Answer: I first visited Edmonton as a tourist when I came to enjoy the Fringe Festival as a child. The arts and live experience sector is an important part of the fabric of our city and we should support them as much as we can to ensure that they continue to draw thousands of people to our city every year. I will advocate for the arts sector both at Council and with other levels of government.
Q23: Should the city have more permanent public washrooms?
- Yes, we need more permanent public washrooms
Expanded Answer: More public washrooms is just good city planning.
Q24: Do you support the city’s current approach to upholding the spirit and specifics of TRC’s 94 calls to action.
- Yes, I support the current approach
Q25: What should the residential speed limit be?
- 40 km/h
Expanded Answer: I am supportive of the previous council’s decision to reduce the speed limit to 40km/h as it will directly translate into safer roads through our communities. The City of Edmonton’s Safe Mobility Strategy 2021-2025 lays out a clear vision for decreasing vehicle collisions and fatalities throughout our city and is an underpinning strategy in support of the City Plan. As we evolve existing communities, and design new ones, we need to ensure that the ways we move around the city are safe and accident free. Evaluating these changes to see if they have an impact and adjusting accordingly is good government and though I am positive that a reduced speed limit will have positive effects on our communities we will look at it and make informed decisions that will contribute to safer roads, paths and laneways.
Q26: Where do you stand on accommodating active transportation?
- The city should make roads more accessible to active transportation.
Expanded Answers: The best active transportation infrastructure is separated and multi-modal. We should expand our large network of multi-use trails, separate from traffic. I am an active cyclist myself, I use the active transportation networks throughout the city to get around and this is an important part of ensuring that we have 15-minute communities. We need to protect the active transportation infrastructure that we have in place and where possible build permanent or temporary infrastructure. Open up more streets for patios, pedestrians, cyclists, and for use by local businesses. We can improve pedestrian and cyclist pathways by addressing missing links and connections such as the East/West crossing of the CP rail line.
Q27: Do you support the expansion of major roads?
- I oppose these expansions, primarily on financial grounds
Expanded Answer: Terwilligar drive was funded by the UCP government, against the advice of City Council and Administration. We know that to achieve our financial and climate goals, we need to be building smarter alternatives including public transit that is more efficient and better for the environment. Our roadway network is essential for shipping, commerce, and business. We need to spend and prioritize accordingly, including incenting public transit and other alternatives. Signaling changes, dedicated lanes, and other interventions can help roads work better, for considerably less money.
Q28: What should be done about transit fares?
- Fares should decrease
Expanded Answer: We need to protect our public services, such as our transit system, but raising fares for the sake of raising fares is not good fiscal management. The cost of taking a family of four downtown is almost double the cost of parking and driving. We need a system that works for families and those facing the most barriers.
Q29: What is your position on the bus network's redesign?
- The city should have taken money from something else to increase frequency and maintain coverage.
Q30: What should be done about LRT expansion?
- Continue with the current plan.
Expanded Answer: Expansion of the LRT system in Edmonton is a smart investment that will pay off in the future by not only making our city more accessible but in helping us reach our climate change targets as more cars come off the road. We need to create every opportunity within our transit system to make it easy for people to get around our city. LRT expansion is not just the responsibility of the City - we need the Provincial and Federal governments to recognize the huge economic and climate impact these projects have. Our plan can be fast-tracked as soon as our partners support it.