Yellowknife election 2022: Devon Hodder interview
Devon Hodder 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 29, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Devon Hodder: Thanks for having me. Yellowknife is my home. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived. I was born here, raised here. My two brothers are here. I went to school here. I don’t plan on leaving any time soon.
What would your philosophy be as a city councillor?
Great question. I want to be someone that listens to the people, who takes the prudent approach to everything we do, really understands the issues before council. Previous councils, I feel like, have kind-of just gone with the flow, so to speak. On the issue of Aurora College, I don’t know how much thought was put into the plan or the MOU. I feel like current council has kind-of rubber-stamped anything that got put in front of them.
On that topic, would you have been in favour of a university campus on Tin Can Hill?
As it stands right now, I am not in favour of decimating Tin Can Hill to put a university on it. I walked through Tin Can yesterday with a resident and it’s a beautiful spot. It’s one of the only spots in the area that you can go off-leash with a dog, ride your bike in the wilderness. And I think with the downtown the way it is right now, I would prefer to have a downtown campus rather than destroy Tin Can Hill and put a campus there.
What should the city’s role be in housing and homelessness?
I think zoning is one and removing hurdles to development is another. As a young person, housing was always top of mind. I’m sure it is for a lot of other young people. There’s nowhere to live in town, it’s very hard to find a place. When we’ve hired people at my employer and bring people up, that’s the number one question: where are they going to stay? And is what you’re going to pay them going to be enough to afford the high cost of living here? The city has to work with the GNWT and the feds to solve this problem. We can’t solve it on our own. In reference to the 50/50 lot, I am totally on board with more housing units downtown. However, I think the way that was done could have been done better. But more housing is definitely needed in Yellowknife.
What should be happening to our municipal taxes next year?
Fantastic question. You’re not the first person to ask. I would prefer to keep them low, as much as we can. As a property owner, it directly affects me. And it’s not only property owners, renters are going to pay more when their leases come up for renewal. I am against the new property tax increases. I think it’s a slap in the face to all taxpayers to do a nine-percent hike in one shot.
But if inflation is hitting the city as much as it’s hitting residents and businesses, which services are you prepared to lose?
I’m also not a fan of cutting services, so I think the city needs to find more sources of revenue in other areas, such as an accommodation levy that was proposed many years ago and has had very little work done to it. I think nine percent in one go is terrible. That shouldn’t have happened. We should plan it out to say, for example, we’re going to do four percent over the next three years. That’s a much better way of doing it.
What do you think the economic future of Yellowknife is? And how should city council be supporting it?
I think diversification is key with Ekati and Diavik closing and scaling back. The Giant Mine cleanup is a very important project for us. I would like to see tourism investment increase – the accommodation levy could fund that. I think the arts master plan is a good step. There’s also the growing our own food master plan that was done in 2019. And then supporting mineral exploration sustainably, I think there are projects that could be done. The rare earth elements project by Cheetah was a good one, for example.
To what extent should climate change be a concern that’s at the fore of every decision that this city council makes?
I think it’s very important issue across the country and the world. We could definitely be doing more in the city. For example, I live in a downtown condo and the only access I have to waste management is a giant black garbage bin outside. If I want to recycle or compost, I have to drive to a big blue bin. So I think we could be doing that better downtown, specifically.
What are the next steps in reconciliation for the City of Yellowknife, do you think?
I was speaking to someone who brought up the idea of working with Indigenous groups on changing street names and road signs, I think that’s a good step. That’s not going to be far enough. I think we really have to work with our partners to do more and see what they would like to see, and how we can be better at that.
Looking at decisions council made in the past four years: would you have voted to support construction of a new swimming pool?
I voted yes in the referendum, to be completely transparent. The reasoning for that is, one, we had the federal funding to go towards it. And two, the current pool was going to cost a fortune anyway to renovate and remodel and bring it up to speed. So I think that was the better of the two options that we had.
This time last year, would you have supported the requirement for proof of vaccination at city facilities?
Fantastic question. I am fully vaccinated myself, I have close friends who are not. That policy? You’re not going to win, either way you go. I probably would have voted against it, personally.
On what grounds?
Covid has kind-of put us past that, now. I don’t know how long that vaccine mandate lasted at city facilities. I don’t think it was just necessary. I used my vaccine passport maybe three times when I had to, personally, and I think barring taxpayers from using facilities on that ground? We shouldn’t have done that.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, other issues you’d like to raise?
I think housing and land are one – we touched on that briefly. Downtown revitalization, the economy, and I support a polytechnic university – just not on Tin Can Hill right at this time.
Head back to the full interview list here.