Yellowknife election 2022: Stacie Arden Smith interview
Stacie Arden Smith 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 23, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: Looking back on your last term, what are you most proud of?
Stacie Arden Smith: The work that’s been done with the vulnerable section. I know due to Covid there have been a lot of halts in some of the programming and things people wanted to see done. However, I’m most proud of where the day shelter is now. The visitor centre is very important and it’s finally come to fruition, that I’m most proud of. But being able to be a voice for Indigenous people and the issues that have arisen from it. I am only one voice of an Indigenous person, so I don’t represent all of them. But I’m glad that I get to have the opportunity.
Where could you and council have improved over the last four years?
Many challenges came in terms of not having enough information when you’re dealing with more than just the city itself. We have a lot of information when it’s just a city item. But when we’re dealing with other partners, sometimes we don’t get as much information as we wish we had. A case in point: in our dealings with the GNWT, sometimes we’re not privy to all the information that we wish we were, or it comes after the fact. Hopefully we can strengthen that relationship, because we’re supposed to be working as a unit and not separate entities, really, for the betterment of the community and people in general. We should be working together.
What’s your philosophy as a city councillor?
I speak when I need to. I’m not one of the people that likes to hear my own voice. I don’t speak a lot of fluff when it’s not necessary. But I do pipe up when things need to be addressed, when truths need to be spoken to.
What should be happening to municipal taxes in Yellowknife next year?
The hope always is to decrease the taxes. Again, coming out of Covid, there was a lot of programming that didn’t happen. There wasn’t a whole lot of revenue coming in and, when there’s not a lot of revenue, we have to be able to acquire money some way to be able to maintain getting programs up and running. And that’s the thing that people sometimes forget. We have a pool that’s coming up – and it might not have been something that everybody wanted, but we do have a pool coming. It does need to be paid for. So the hope is that maybe the next council will be able to whittle down on some things that aren’t necessary that maybe the previous council didn’t think of. But we do have to remember that we do need to have revenue in order to keep programs going. They just don’t happen for free. So that’s something that we have to keep in mind.
Where do you think Yellowknife’s economic future lies? And what can city council do to support that?
We’re doing a lot of planning in terms of our economic development strategies. We’re seeing that the tourism industry is now slowly getting back up and running. And I’m glad to see that. I actually was driving by Aurora Village where the old Legion was – I’m not quite sure what they’re doing but I’m hoping they’re getting themselves back on their feet again. So we’re starting to see that. We’re starting to see a lot of tourists come in. So we’re going to be definitely gearing toward that. That’s why we have the visitor centre up and running. And with that, from what I hear, there’s a lot of people getting interested in some of the shops that are in that downtown lower mall area. So we’re hoping that it generates businesses coming back because they are going to have that tourism market. Within the next four years, I’m really hoping that the tourism sector boosts itself. We’ve got a lot of people interested in travelling again because Covid really halted that. And I think it actually increased people’s desire to be travelling and see the world. What are the most important things to a person in life once everything was taken away? Seeing family and travelling the world.
What’s the city’s role in housing and homelessness over the next four years, do you think?
The city is one of the entities that offers funding. With the federal government, we have the Reaching Home funding. We have the community advisory board on homelessness, and that committee comes up with suggestions that go to council as to the NGOs that are in need of money, the programs that need to continue going on. Reaching Home, when I was on the board about a year and half ago, kind-of restructured how they were going to be doling out money and what was required with the Reaching Home funding. It’s wanting all these NGOs to kind-of work underneath one umbrella so that there’s no missed information and they’re all working together. It will be difficult starting off, because you have to rearrange things to fit the community that it goes towards. The hope is that we’ll have a better handle on these items. I hate always going back to Covid, but Covid really, really messed up the system in terms of people being unable to get the supports that they needed because they didn’t want to go out, they didn’t want to go face to face. It’s difficult when you’re in the system and you have addictions. You need to have that face-to-face rapport with someone, not over the phone, because it’s less genuine and you need someone to keep you accountable. And it made it really difficult on the systems in place.
What do you think the next steps need to be in reconciliation for the City of Yellowknife?
I think we’re still at the beginning of reconciliation. And we’re going to be here for a bit, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And the reason I say that is because sometimes truths are the most difficult to come to terms with. People don’t want to say them and people don’t want to hear them, because a lot of it comes from a shameful place. And a lot of it comes from anger. Nobody wants to be blamed for something that they didn’t do. And it’s not about blaming, it’s about people being able to have the opportunity to say that this happened. That’s it. Nobody wants sympathy. Indigenous people don’t want sympathy. We just want people to hear: ‘This is what happened. And this is how we’re going to move forward.’ We want to tell the stories to young people, people of my generation, even some of the older generations, but mostly to the youth because they’re the ones who are going to change the future. This is what we shouldn’t do in the future: we shouldn’t use the colonial aspect, and we don’t want to hurt and harm a specific group and strip them of their identity. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. Truth is what what comes down to the core of it. We have to be open to listening and telling.
Does climate change have to be a key consideration in just-about every decision that’s getting made here?
I think so. I’m sure everybody has experienced this really weird fall that we’ve had. It’s usually crisp. As a kid here, it was always crisp – nice, cold mornings. We’re not having that. I think it rained last night. And you’re really seeing the environment around us change, the water levels change. We really have to be attuned to what we’re doing. I actually had an individual ask me about my carbon footprint and what I think, as a city councillor, I should do personally and on a grander scale. We should be working with our solid waste facility to be able to reduce, reuse, recycle, and make it more accessible to people to be able to go and do their salvaging and reduce what we’re bringing out to the dump. At my house we compost like nobody’s business and we save all the boxes. If we can reuse a box, we’ll reuse it. We do all those things to try to assist as much as we can.
Looking back at big decisions council faced over the last four years: was it the right decision to vote for a new swimming pool?
Personally, I didn’t want a new swimming pool. I alreay knew that we were going to be going into inflation, and people are already struggling as it is. But I also know that we have kids that are wanting a swimming pool. I do believe I actually did vote down on it, if I can recall. I personally didn’t want to vote for the pool because I knew that we’re struggling. Taxes would be increased, and I didn’t think it was the right time.
Is it the right decision to build a university campus on Tin Can Hill?
I also voted against that one. The hope was initially to use what we have downtown to assist in the downtown revitalization plan and make a university that was unique to Yellowknife, to the North, not one that is a colonial setting. Here’s a big building, here’s a beautiful landscape, and we’re going to try and Indigenize it with a few extras. I really feel that we can still make a university our own in the downtown. But we will see what the city comes up with and what the GNWT comes up with going forward.
A year ago, was it the right decision to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
That one is a tough one to answer. Everybody has their own opinions on Covid and vaccinations. For the betterment of individuals feeling safe, I think it was the appropriate thing to do. Everybody was very cautious and nobody wanted to be in harm’s way. So I think in that aspect, to protect our community and the people that we serve, I think it was a good plan. Beyond that, it comes down to the safety of our community members that use these facilities.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s important to note the character of the people that you’re voting for. I think I’ve proven myself to be of strong character. I’m smart. I’m brave, courageous, outspoken. These are me tooting my own horn, here, but I’m an honest person. And I’m hardworking. And I think that should show for itself in the work that I’ve done and how I have made myself available to my community and in putting, you know, my hard work into the community to make it better.
More: Stacie Arden Smith’s candidate Facebook page.
Head back to the interview list here.