Rob Foote 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.
This interview was recorded on September 14, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Rob Foote: I was born in Yellowknife in 1980. I lived here most of my life up until 2005 when I left for Leduc, Alberta. I stuck around there for about eight years and then found my way home, just to be closer to family and outdoor activities that I missed. I’m married with two kids here in town, and I’ve been working here ever since.
How would you describe the philosophy that would guide you as a city councillor?
Well, my philosophy would be to look out for the residents and businesses from a fiscal perspective as best as I can, while not sacrificing the services we need, understanding that we are under inflationary pressures and that those aren’t easily alleviated at the time. So it’ll be taking a close look at procurement policies and other operational costs to see if we can just find efficiencies somewhere.
What do you think should be happening to municipal taxes in Yellowknife next year?
It goes without saying that costs increase and taxes are a part of that. I would just like to take a really close look and see what we can do to avoid passing on too big of an increase to residents and businesses. See if there are any operating efficiencies we can achieve, economies of scale through procurement, revisiting contracts and things like that, so that they’re in everyone’s best interest.
It sounds like you’d be looking for small victories where you can get them rather than a big shift.
Initially, as a rookie if I make it onto council. I would have to see what kind of policy tools we have at our disposal to make those big changes. But initially it’ll be small victories, especially as the current economic situation sorts itself out.
Where do you think the economic future of this city lies?
Well, it’s pretty uncertain at the moment. As you know the diamond mines are ramping down, some are slated for closure as early as 2025. There’ll still be a lot of activity related to that one mine – backhauling and care and maintenance, environmental stuff that they have to tie up before they can actually vacate – so we really have to get on it now to ensure that we’re looking toward the future and giving areas like tourism and commercial fishing a look to help supplement that in the meantime, while the Slave Province road is possibly being built and giving us exploration opportunities for more mines in the future, if that’s what people want.
Are there specific actions the city can be taking to help that economic shift?
Just more marketing itself is a friendly destination for both summer and winter activities, a nice place to live for future residents. And also just trying to give opportunities to people that might be displaced by some of the mine closures so that they don’t have to leave town to look for similar opportunities in a different setting.
What do you think the city’s role in housing can be?
Part of my platform involves looking at making it easier for, say, workforce accommodation to be set up somewhere where a lot of the rotational workers, working on the big projects, can hang their hat while they’re in town. That is displacing a lot of permanent residents. With the vacancy rate the way it is, that’s something that we have to consider. When a unit does become available, there’s no guarantee that somebody can afford to move into it – and it’s just because of that tight pressure on the market that they’re able to ask those kinds of prices at the moment.
Looking at homelessness, should the city’s role in that change?
There’s definitely a role for the city in that, not from a policy perspective but there are in-kind things that they could do to make advocacy groups and so on easier to operate here: tax incentives on property for treatment, or a day shelter or programming. And just really collaborating with the GNWT instead of kind-of kicking the ball back and forth on who’s responsible for what.
What do you think the next steps are in reconciliation for the City of Yellowknife?
Well, the city is doing a pretty good job so far with land acknowledgments and everything like that. But we really should put the best foot forward and include the people of Ndilo and Dettah in longer discussions we’re having on larger projects – look at opportunities for partnerships with them to get their economic arm involved, if possible. And just make amends for some of the stuff that happened around Giant Mine, ensure that, they’re not forgotten about and that in future discussions, they’ll be involved and always at the table.
Is it your job as a city councillor to worry about climate change?
It’s everybody’s job to worry about climate change. We just have to do what we can on a micro scale to try to mitigate it. And the city has a role to play in that.
That mitigation costs money. How do you strike the balance between dealing with that and keeping taxes at a reasonable level?
We have a social responsibility to look out for the future of the city and not everything’s going to be a revenue generator. Sometimes things are going to cost us money to do the right thing. Part of that is looking at our recycling program that currently isn’t working. They keep saying that there are no buyers for the recycled material. Maybe it’s time we look at implementing a curbside recycling process so that people are looking through the products and making sure that they meet all the criteria to be recycled, they’re sorted, and then once they are all collected they can be given away, provided that somebody pays the shipping costs for them. It’s just a good diversion strategy, and it keeps it out of the landfill.
Looking now at issues that faced the outgoing council over the past four years: would you have voted for a new swimming pool?
Yes, but not the way that it was laid out. I’m not a huge fan of the location and the amount of blasting and rock movement that’s going on. A fair bit of the capital costs are involved in the earthworks, I definitely would have explored another spot. And going back a few councils before that, I definitely would have put it in a phase two for the multiplex-fieldhouse area, knowing that end-of-life on Ruth inch was coming, to incorporate it there somewhere.
Would you have voted for a university campus on Tin Can Hill?
Not on Tin Can Hill, no. It’s a very good spot for people that don’t have the means to get out to nature outside of town. It’s a nice little sanctuary in the city limits. And I think there would have been better places to put the university.
What would you have preferred to see?
I don’t really have an answer to that right now. I just think that their ratings matrix that they used may have been somewhat biassed or incomplete. And there are more criteria that could have been explored before putting that recommendation forward.
This time last year, would you have voted to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
Yes. We’re obligated to look after our sick and infirm. It didn’t affect me personally but that’s not for everyone.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
No, it’s pretty-well out there on social media and on my website. Feel free to send me any messages if you have any questions and I look forward to your support in October.