Yellowknife election 2022: Stewart Pallard interview
Stewart Pallard 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 16, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Stewart Pallard: I’ve been in Yellowknife for about five years now. My wife’s been here for about 18 now. And when I got here I worked up at Diavik for a few years, I was the chief operating engineer. Then I worked at the hospital and now I’m working in building management downtown. My background is as a power engineer.
What kind of philosophy would guide you as a city councillor? What’s important to you?
Respect for taxpayer dollars would be a big one. And also is it a practical solution? I think sometimes that’s left out of things. I’m going around door to door right now and our solution to the garbage – you know, one of the things I’m running on is trying to end illegal dumping. And it’s difficult, but I’m talking to people and a lot of people have issues with fitting all their garbage into their garbage can once every two weeks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a household of five, it doesn’t matter if you’re a household of two, you get the same garbage bin. So I’m just looking for practical solutions. I would like us to have the choice to have maybe a second bin or a bigger bin. One of my guiding things would be also listening to other people on council to see what they have to say – listen with an open ear. But also practical solutions to problems.
The first thing you said there was respect for taxpayers’ dollars. When we look at municipal taxes, what should be happening next year?
Those discussions need to happen. But going back to garbage, right now we have a recycling program in town but the city doesn’t recycle various types of plastics and glass. Why are we paying for that? I agree people should recycle. It’s important. It’s good for our environment. But why are we paying for a program that’s totally ineffective? It still ends up at the dump, it’s not being recycled.
You might be able to make some cost savings there but we’ve got a supply chain crisis still, we’ve got inflation going up The city is saying, ‘Look, it was nine percent last year, it might need to be 10 percent or more next year coming up.’ Does that make sense to you? Can you see those cost pressures on the city?
The city would have to show me the justification and show me some numbers.
What do you think the economic future of this city is? And how do you think council can support that?
I think we’ve got good things going on. I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom. You know, the Bellanca building is getting developed. It looks like we’re going to have another major development downtown with the 50/50 lot. So… the diamond mines closing? I have good friends that still work there. It’s unfortunate. Other mines are not the same scale, but hopefully they’ll get up and running. We’ll see what happens. But I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom at all.
There’s housing coming up but housing is a big issue here, and homelessness as well. What role do you think Yellowknife’s city council has to play there?
That’s a good question. The approach that’s been taken to homelessness, I think is the right approach. It’s a housing first approach, which – from all the research I’ve done – is the right approach to take. It’s been effective in other areas of Canada. A person can’t deal with their addictions if they’re not properly housed. I think the approach that the city has taken is the right approach. The 10-year plan to end homelessness won’t be coming up in our term, maybe the next term. I think we’re on the right track. It’s important to reevaluate but I think we’re on the right track.
To what extent do you think climate change needs to be a factor in the way that city council is taking its decisions these days?
That’s a huge issue. But again, you know, no practical solutions. Is public transit effective? There’s a lot of time where it’s full and I also see –during the day, walking downtown – the buses running around empty. Is what we’re doing actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
Even if, say, a service like public transit is underused during the day, it’s sometimes politically tricky to cut back on things like that because people see it as cutting back on services used by people who don’t have the money for an alternative. Where do you think that balance lies?
That’s a tough question. That’s a tough one. You just have to look at ridership. If the bus is empty, then people have voted with their feet not to use it. So I’m not saying abandon it, but are the resources being used in the best possible way?
What are the next steps in reconciliation, do you think, for the City of Yellowknife?
The city seems to be implementing their plan. I don’t see anything wrong in what they’re doing right now. You know, just keep following the plan.
Looking at decisions council faced in the past four years: would you have voted for a new swimming pool to be built?
I voted yes on that. The trick is going to be actually operating it and funding that. For the next council, that’s going to be a tough one. I felt the new pool was needed.
Would you have voted to support the university campus on Tin Can Hill?
You’re giving me all the controversial ones here, Ollie.
That’s the gig.
No, fair enough. That has been slated for development for 30 years. I like the area as an area to walk around. I’ve taken my family up there and it’s beautiful. But in everything I read, that was the best place to put it and it can be developed in a way that accommodates recreational activities. You can only say no to projects so many times, too. The project could go someplace else. I think it’s going to help the city. It’s going to bring students here. Could it be closer to downtown? In a perfect world, yes, but that’s not the world we live in. We’ve got to find a practical solution to things. So there you go.
This time last year, would you have voted to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
The pandemic’s pretty-much over, Ollie. We’ve moved past that. I think it’s time to move forward.
A similar decision may yet lie ahead for a future council. What would you have done?
I would have said no.
Well, because I don’t think it’s right to divide people based on vaccination status. This was something that tore families apart. It looks like Covid is here to stay and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a fact of life now.
Is there anything else you think is important?
Illegal dumping is an issue. People are upset about it and it’s being overlooked. The solutions right now aren’t practical. That bin is too small and you’re mandated to only have one bin, so people are putting garbage in their compost. I was talking with a gentleman just two days ago and he has to take his to work with him sometimes. He has a family of six and sometimes his parents come to help out. It’s a lot of garbage. They recycle, they compost. They’re trying to do the right thing. So he takes his garbage to work and dumps it at work. It’s not practical and I feel it needs to be changed.
A last question on that, then. And this is a hypothetical – you can yell at me for this question, and that would be fine. If the city told you it could do bigger bins and more collections but it’s going to be a two-percent bump on our property tax, would you take that?
I don’t think it’d be like that. Maybe if people want a bigger bin, they just buy it. There are other municipalities that do that – and so you have the choice. If you want to stick with your regular bin, stick with your regular bin. If you want a bigger bin, buy your own. That’s not going to result in a two or three percent property tax increase.
More: Stewart Pallard’s website.
Head back to the interview list here.