Mike Martin 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 26, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Mike Martin: I’ve been in North for over 15 years. I moved to Yellowknife from Norman Wells in 2009. I’m a long-term public servant and I have a commercial fishing industry on the side. I enjoy the outdoors. I have a cabin out on the North Arm. I just fell in love with this city. I came north on a two-year plan that is now into year 16. I’ve been passionate about city issues for a while and I think I’m at a point in my life where I can contribute to decisions being made in the city and provide a voice for the residents of Yellowknife.
How would you describe the philosophy that would guide you as a councillor?
I’d like to think of myself as being approachable. People can come talk to me and raise their concerns, opinions or topics that they would like to see addressed. I also would like to be as fiscally responsible as possible and start instituting initiatives where we started looking closely at asset management and trying to limit the financial burden on the residents as much as possible, while still sticking with the mandate and the services that the city provides.
What should be happening with our municipal taxes next year?
In an ideal world, you would see a zero-percent increase, obviously. But there is inflation. Costs for utilities and everything are going up. So that needs to be managed. Instead of deferring that amount to the residents, we should be looking at prioritizing projects. That might mean a project that is on the slate for next year maybe gets bumped down the road two years. That all needs to be looked at to make sure that we’re still delivering our mandate and services that we should be providing as a city. But those are the kinds of focus I would like to see the new city council take.
What do you think the economic future of Yellowknife is? And how should city council support that?
Well, obviously, a big part of the economy is tourism and mining. And I think that Yellowknife, being a bit of a hub, should be looking at providing the services that are needed to try to have that money spent locally – having services for the diamond mine so that you’re able to provide them with the services and they don’t need to go outside of the territory, to keep that money in. Tourism? While it’s a good thing to have, it’s not necessarily the best thing to base an economy on. But it is good to have and we do have it, and it seems to be coming back since Covid. We should provide services that make it more accessible for tourists to come to Yellowknife and enjoy their time here and want to come back, or spread the word that this is a great place to come and see.
What role do you think the City of Yellowknife should have in housing and homelessness issues?
Let’s take the homelessness issue first. There are social issues related to that, so that is more of a territorial mandate, but that doesn’t mean that the city can’t support initiatives by the GNWT. The city should be fostering relationships with the GNWT to provide the services that are needed and identify where it can provide the support. We don’t have an economic base to take this on ourselves, nor a mandate, because health and social services is a GNWT mandate, not a city mandate. That doesn’t mean we can’t support those initiatives for the betterment of the community. As far as housing goes, there has been, obviously, development ongoing recently in Yellowknife and we need to consider especially the polytechnic university. If there’s going to be an influx of students, we need to have affordable housing. And I think we need to start considering affordable apartments that people can stay at, as opposed to maybe having a large condo complex where you’re required to buy, or you’re renting and it’s beyond what, say, a student could afford or what the general public could afford. We need to take a look at what kind of proposed developments there are, and have developers come in and talk to the council about what their plans are. We can identify our issues to them and maybe we can come to some kind of agreement.
To what extent do all of council’s decisions need to be looked at with climate change in mind?
Climate change is obviously a big national, global topic. That definitely has to be one of the considerations, but you need to balance the quality of life, the economic strength of the community, and the environment all at once. They’re all interconnected. If one starts to fall, the others start to fall. If one starts to build, the others start to build. In my opinion, it is definitely a consideration but it’s one of many considerations. They all need to be balanced together and be of equal weight.
What are the next steps in reconciliation for the City of Yellowknife, do you think?
That’s a good question. Reconciliation is something that all governments and people, even residents, need to focus on. I would like to see encouragement of First Nations employment, where possible, in the government. I’d like to see the city also integrate a bit more of the traditional knowledge aspect of the culture up here into their planning, because, as I said, everybody has a valid opinion and everything should be equally weighted. And I would like to see more of that going on.
Looking at decisions made by the outgoing council: would you have voted for a new swimming pool?
Hindsight being 20-20, which this is, because these are decisions that have been made, I would have voted for a new pool. Apart from the city mandate of providing roads, sidewalks, water and waste disposal, recreational facilities are key to having healthy, strong residents. Having a pool does have benefits. I don’t have kids but I still use the pool and I used to swim every morning, pre-Covid anyways. There is value added to it. Now, that being said, I think there could have been a bit more information put out to make sure that residents were more informed on that decision and the cost implications of it. But I think, in the long run, it will be good for the community.
Would you have supported a university campus on Tin Can Hill?
This has come up a lot in my campaigning so far. I would like to see like to see what other options there would be for locations. I do like to see green spaces and I know all the people walk their dogs in there, and it is an access for snowmobilers to get down to the lake. I’m currently not of the opinion that that’s the best location for the polytechnic university. That being said, depending on the designs, maybe you can have a balance between the two. As it stands now, I don’t think that would be the best place to put it.
And this time last year, would you have voted to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
That’s another good question. Obviously, there’s a split opinion on proof of vaccination and the potential for government overreach. Part of the reason I have issues with this is because, again, back to health and social services, this is not a city mandate. But at the same point, you need to protect the residents. And what it comes down to is: could you have accommodated unvaccinated people within the pool at certain days and people that were vaccinated other days? I’m not sure if that was a major consideration. Should there have been a requirement? I’d have to say yes, there should have been, but I think there should have been more focus on the accommodation to people that decided to not get vaccinated. I think that part of the city mandate is to try to be inclusive for everybody.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I’m very approachable. You see me on the street? Feel free to come chat with me. I do have a Facebook page and I do have a pamphlet that you’ll see floating around that shows what my priorities are. I would like to just try to be a good representative of the residents of Yellowknife, provide them a voice. I’m a very approachable individual. Don’t be scared of me. I like to see a lot of thought put into dealing with the cost of living when it comes to taxation, and see where those things can be mitigated to reduce the burden on the wall of the residents.