Yellowknife election 2022: Dwayne Simmons interview
Dwayne Simmons is running for Yellowknife city council in the fall 2022 municipal election. Here’s a full transcript of our interview.
We asked every candidate roughly the same questions, to allow residents the chance to compare and contrast answers before placing their votes in the city’s mail-in ballot.
Questions include a little candidate background information and their thoughts on municipal taxes, housing and homelessness, climate change, reconciliation and the city’s economy.
We also ask each candidate how they would have handled three big issues that faced councillors during the past four years: a new swimming pool for Yellowknife, a proposed university campus on Tin Can Hill, and the question of requiring proof of vaccination at city facilities during the pandemic.
Polling day is October 17, though most votes are expected to have been cast by mail beforehand. Results should be available on the night of October 17.
Mayor Rebecca Alty has already been acclaimed to a second term as nobody ran against her.
Yellowknife’s school board elections also resulted in two sets of acclamations.
This interview was recorded on September 20, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Dwayne Simmons: I’m a bit of a longtime Yellowknifer. I’ve been in Yellowknife since 2008. I’ve worked in a number of different fields: I was web manager for Northern News Services for a while, then I was project manager for Kasteel Construction. For the last five years I have been a realtor with Century 21 Prospect Realty. Also, over my time, I’ve spent countless volunteer hours on different boards and charity groups and that sort of thing, like the chamber of commerce. Most recently, the golf board.
How would you describe the philosophy that will guide you as a councillor?
I think it would be a similar philosophy to the way I carry myself in my business life: essentially very approachable, always open to having conversations and listening to different points of view. I’m not a very judgmental person, I understand that everybody will have their own opinions and, for the most part, I’m a very honest person. Transparency is important to me. I think those are some of the qualities that I carry over from my business career that I would apply to this particular role.
What should be happening to municipal taxes in Yellowknife next year?
I’d like to say that I know the exact answer that question. I mean, I know we enjoyed a couple of years in a row of low, to zero, to no tax increase, and then of course we had that large nine-percent hike last time. We can’t keep it zero forever. If we want to have the services such as a nice new pool and fieldhouse and all of these types of facilities, then it has to come with a certain amount of tax. What we need to do is maybe plan a little bit better so that it’s not zero, zero, zero and then nine. I think everybody can live with smaller increments on a regular basis versus getting it all at once with a large amount.
You obviously know a thing or two about housing. What role do you think Yellowknife and city council can play in homelessness and housing in the city?
It’s almost been on the plate for longer than I’ve been here, it seems. We can work together with the territorial government but I think that we need to also handle what we can control. The territorial government really needs to be the one that’s driving the ship on that particular issue and then we would help facilitate or do what we can within our means to be able to help that process along. When it comes to housing and stuff like that, the best thing that we can do is obviously plan and potentially look at opening new greenfield. I know that infill has been the way to go in terms of the more recent methods that the city has put out. Infill is great but we also need to still plan to expand. And if we’re not doing that, then I think that’s not ideal for any city.
Speaking of planning to expand, what do you think the economic future of this city is and how should council be supporting that?
If you look at my platform online, I kept mine pretty simple and to the point, focusing more on the economy. I think that we’re in precarious times with the mines closing. What we can control in the immediate future, and what needs to be our focus – or at least one of our large focuses – is tourism, potentially opening up more opportunities for more aurora-viewing outfits, putting in the hotel levy, fleshing out how it’s going to work. I think that’s an important piece to get up and running. It’s a good pocket of money that we could be using to market our city and bring in shows and different types of festivals and stuff like that to Yellowknife. Those things have a direct economic impact to restaurants or just the city in general, our shopping facilities. Being able to open up more land for potentially other aurora tourism operators I think would be also important. Maybe that’s Kam Lake. I think it’s definitely something that we need to look at.
Amid all of that, how much of a responsibility do you think you have as a city councillor to worry about climate change?
It’s obviously an important global issue. It’s not just here. I know that it’s on everybody’s mind and it’s become the topic of conversation and then how we can decrease our carbon footprint and all that sort of stuff. It’s not that it’s not on my mind. It’s just… on my current platform I think we have to be conscious of it, but I think we have bigger fish to fry.
What are the next steps in reconciliation for the City of Yellowknife, do you think?
I don’t know. I haven’t honestly spent a lot of thought into that side. I know that our previous council has done a great job with growing the relationship with the Dene community. I think we need to continue to do that and look for opportunities when they arise.
A couple of questions now about what you would have done if you were a member of the council that is just reaching the end of its term. Dwayne, would you have voted for a new swimming pool?
I think I would have. I would have liked to have seen maybe a pool that could host potentially a western Canadian tournament and stuff like that, other economic opportunities that would come by having a slightly larger pool. I know that budgets and input from the public obviously formed the final plan for that. I definitely think that it’s a great facility. I think it’s going to be good for Yellowknife. I would have just like to have been able to really take advantage of, you know, if we’re going to build something new we want to potentially be able to bring those swim meets here to Yellowknife, where the city can benefit from an economic perspective. But other than that, I’m all for it.
Would you have supported a new university campus on Tin Can Hill?
I don’t necessarily think that it has to be on Tin Can Hill. I don’t think the city has too much control over if that actually happens. It seems that if the GNWT is going to push it forward, then it’s obvious that the city is on board. I don’t necessarily think that we’re going to change what they want to do from our opinions. I do think that a new university is a great idea. I don’t necessarily think it has to be on Tin Can Hill. But again, I just don’t see city council being somebody that decides that.
This time last year, would you have voted to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
I know that can be a loaded question. There’s a two-sided argument to this. For the most part, I am pro-choice for people – if they want to get it, great. It’s there, it’s available. I did get vaccinated myself, but that was a personal choice. And I also support those who didn’t want to put that in their body. I probably wouldn’t have voted to make it mandatory. But like I said, I went and got it done. So I obviously support the vaccine.
Is there anything else that you think is important?
The third part of my platform, in terms of putting more focus into Kam Lake. I feel like that’s an under-developed neighbourhood in Yellowknife, it’s sometimes forgotten. I’d like to see business incentives to potentially turn it into a proper business district. There’s no street lighting, there are no sidewalks. You got into that neighbourhood and you have a lot of willows blocking and you can’t see what the property’s actually are, who the businesses actually are. That’s not how a business district should be. And it’s become an entry to Grace Lake which is one of our premier neighbourhoods. The roads are bad and I think that’s also an important piece. There’s a lot of money in Kam Lake that supports Yellowknife and I think that they need to get some attention, too, out there. I’m looking forward to getting on council and learning the ropes. I know there’s going to be a bit of a transition, of course, but I am definitely one that’s willing to take on the work, and willing to do the work, and try to accomplish at least the stuff that I’ve set out in my platform.
Head back to the interview list here.