MAYORAL CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS: Alty | Bell | Sibbeston | Stewart
Adrian Bell says he is the only candidate with the blend of experience, proactivity, and knowledge to lead Yellowknife as its next mayor.
Bell is standing against another experienced city councillor in Rebecca Alty, and two newcomers in Bob Stewart and Jerald Sibbeston, at the time of writing. Nominations close on September 17, with the election on October 15.
In an extensive interview with Cabin Radio, Bell portrayed himself as the mayor who will get things done – heading to City Hall armed with a to-do list and not afraid to voice an opinion (now that rules have changed, just this week, allowing the mayor to do so at meetings).
Bell said he would “dig into policy” to leave the City on a firmer procedural footing, play hardball with the GNWT and power suppliers to cut the cost of living, and pitch to Bay Street big-hitters in a bid to get major projects funded.
However, he advocated a policy of letting the market decide and non-intervention when it comes to some forms of economic management, like rental accommodation. On permitting for AirBnB operators, he wants the conversation to evolve first – “wait and see.”
Below, read the full transcript of Adrian Bell’s interview with Cabin Radio’s Ollie Williams.
Visit: Adrian Bell’s campaign website
Ollie Williams: Why do you want to be the next mayor of Yellowknife?
Adrian Bell: Well, I live and breathe municipal issues. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night, the stuff I wake up in the morning very excited about. So when the opportunity comes along to move from a part-time position to full-time, I have to jump at that opportunity.
What about it makes you think you specifically are the person to do the job and effect some change?
Number one, the reason I’d like to do the job is I’m passionate about it. But–
I’m passionate about being a soccer player but it doesn’t mean anyone is trying to sign me…
Fair enough. Over the last two terms I’ve found that I’ve become quite effective at getting things done. I understand how to move things forward, I understand which levers need to be pulled to effect change. It takes some time to learn those methods and, over the course of the last six years I’ve done that. And as a result I’ve been very active. I began doing this right from the word go, by putting motions on the agenda, lobbying my council colleagues for their support, making sure they understood my motions very well, and then moving forward and hopefully getting those approved and then implemented. That’s something I’ve done a lot in the past two terms and I think that’s something we need as a mayor.
Of all those things, what would you pick out? What are you proudest of?
There are a couple of overarching things that have a lot bundled into them. One of them was the operational review of the planning and development department – that was a critical one and not all of those things have been implemented yet.
Explain why that was critical.
When I was first elected, I was aware there were some problems within that department in terms of our land pricing policies – which I found unfair, or unrealistic. Also with respect to how developers interact with building inspectors, among other things. I was not an expert at all. To be able to really get at those issues, it helps to have an outside expert, so one of the first things I did was establish – with the support of my colleagues – a $100,000 per year budget for these types of third-party, independent reviews to get the experts to come in and take a look, to be able to say, ‘Here’s where you’re not keeping up with best practices.’
We did one on the municipal enforcement division. I wasn’t very happy with how that turned out and committed to myself I would step forward and be on the steering committee of the next important operational review. I was able to make sure the scope of work for planning and development included very important things like the land fund, that was a critical addition.
We should make clear we’re talking about a different municipal enforcement review to the inquiry that took place earlier this year. Why weren’t you happy with that earlier review?
I feel the scope of work – what the consultant was hired to look at – didn’t include enough. It didn’t include issues of culture. We’ve known there has been high turnover in that division for a long time and, unfortunately, that wasn’t looked at. Had I been on that steering committee, it definitely would have been. But it wasn’t and, as a result, the MED officers themselves weren’t really interviewed as stakeholders through that lens of culture, and are things working? And also the public weren’t included. Those were omissions that I would have corrected.
Culture and policy
Let’s talk about culture. We have a situation where the manager of municipal enforcement’s name has barely been out of the news for nine months of this year; 10 of the people who work there write a letter to the newspaper backing him, someone else apparently spoke to the newspaper not backing him anonymously as a result of that, we’ve had an independent inquiry, the findings have come out but we’ve only seen three paragraphs of that. It could, to many people, appear to be a bit of a mess. Whose fault is that?
Current councillors love doing this and I apologize to councillors from past councils, but I was on the last council and I would say the last council – and this one, up to the point where we launched the official inquiry. We weren’t aware of the possibility of an official inquiry. I really think we’ve missed the mark on things like this.
When we encountered this situation, I obviously was asking myself how we can address this. I went digging through legislation and our own bylaws. The SAO [senior administrative officer] bylaw, which is a document our council has never reviewed, includes a throwaway line making reference to an official inquiry. It gave the impression the inquiry is something that could be spearheaded by council. I thought that might be a good way to get at this and brought forward a motion to talk about launching this official inquiry.
Unfortunately, though, there is no policy for official inquiries, no guidelines for how this should happen. What is the public going to be told? Not having a policy or the time to write up a policy, we just launched into this. This speaks to a major deficiency: that under our legislation, we are supposed to be developing and evaluating policies, plans, and strategies. It’s something we really haven’t done. It hasn’t been put on our plates by past City managers. I’m optimistic it will be going forward; it’s certainly included on my platform and some others’.
We created guiding principles for the official inquiry. The first two were probably it’s got to be timely, it’s got to be thorough, and another one I insisted on was transparency. Now, transparency around personal details is not really possible, but at the very least I wanted to see transparency around process. If you take a look at how this has all rolled out, I don’t believe we as a council have really achieved that. If we take a look at how the public has been made aware of what’s going on, and the press, we’ve fallen short of meeting that guiding principle directive. That’s on us, but we can improve on this and it’s not too late, now, to be more transparent and make sure the public are aware of what is happening. I don’t even think many of your listeners are probably aware we are not yet at the end of this. We don’t know what the City manager will choose to do based on the report. That’s something I expect we will find out this week. It’s premature to talk about whether this has been done adequately or handled properly.
You talk a lot about policies and frameworks and suggest there is a lot more work to be done. The problem is that it’s boring, frankly. It’s work that doesn’t necessarily win votes because it’s not big-ticket stuff. It can fall off people’s agendas because your platform – we’ll come on to more of it in a moment – your platform has dozens of items ranging from changing the way Yellowknife draws its power all the way through holding the territorial government to account for funding, to many other things. How are you going to ensure the things that have fallen off the agenda of past councils don’t fall off yours?
I would ask residents to elect a council that is going to be good at this stuff, that won’t be bored by it. People who are prepared to dig into policy. Elect people who are aware of the problems. Continuity is important. Have these conversations with candidates and ask if they are ready to put in the work to dig in and help improve these policies. Step two is we need to rearrange our agenda – this was recommended to us by a governance consultant, who recommended we allocate a specific part of the agenda to conversations about governance and policy.
Ultimately, though – and I know it’s the more boring of the three things in my platform – you can’t achieve the first two unless you’ve paid attention to the third. We can’t effectively do things like reduce the cost of living or boost and diversify our economy if council isn’t doing its job, and it needs to know how to do its job first. It’s about setting policy.
Residents often complain or comment that we seem to be lost in the weeds, focusing on specific minor details that seem operational in nature. The reason for that is we didn’t get to have that involvement up front. The sidewalks on Calder Crescent are a perfect example: people are asking, why are we messing around in these sidewalk matters? Isn’t that something that should be left to administration? Ideally, it should be. But they need to have that guidance up front, and that’s where council didn’t do its job. Not micromanaging is fair enough if we have put in place a policy up front. People see the result, that we are micromanaging. We can’t stop until we are allowed to macromanage, until we are allowed to set these overarching policies. That’s boring, I know, but believe me, that’s the most important thing council has to do in the next four years. Unless it does that well, it can’t do all the other, more exciting things.
Cost of living
Cost of living – and reducing it in Yellowknife. How much of that is actually under your control as a city council?
Way more than people think. Council has never taken an adequate look at its own role in controlling and impacting the cost of living. Land pricing is one very simple example; mill rate ratios are another. I don’t want to bore people with details but they can see this in my platform. We have some rare opportunities. In every election year, I wouldn’t necessarily say we’ve got a great opportunity to do all these great things to impact the cost of living, but we have very real opportunities for this election – mostly because the power distribution franchise is coming up for renewal. We’ve seen our neighbours in Hay River try to bring their rates down. It sounds like things are going well there. We have to watch that very closely. That could be transformative. If we can find a way to chop 10 or 15 percent off our power rates, that would be amazing. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go with a public distribution model, it could still be private. The bottom line is you need a competitive situation where you’ve got different groups competing to get that contact.
Do you think there’s 10 or 15 percent to be had? It’s pretty costly to generate power in the NWT. What if people say the best they can do is two percent?
Then I guess it wouldn’t work out all that well, but I’m hearing it can be more than that. I’m optimistic at any rate. I believe we can achieve some significant savings.
You also suggest Yellowknife should look at different sources of power. That strikes me as ambitious for a city council. You mention in your platform the City has leverage on this. Does it? It has to take power from whoever’s providing it at the moment.
This is already being looked at. The territorial government is looking at this. It sounds like the economics of running a line from Taltson have become better in recent years. The City has all kinds of leverage it hasn’t really used properly since I was paying attention in about 2000. We have 48 percent of the population of the NWT; we are the largest energy consumer in the area. We have that consumer power, that lobbying power–
But it’s not like we can go to somebody else, we’ve got one choice.
No, no no. But we can go to the GNWT, the feds, and say, ‘Look, this is how much power we use. If you bring us significantly cheaper power, like hydro, we might consider getting behind a conversion of heating systems.’ You can heat this town with electricity if electricity were cheap enough. That’s what they do in Quebec, in BC. The minute we tap into a Taltson, we start realistically having those conversations. That makes us a very powerful potential customer. That puts us in the position to maybe even sign on as an equity partner in a distribution line. I’m not saying that’s necessarily something we should run out and do if we don’t have to. I believe there would be private partners who would be more than willing to step up and finance this type of major project, along with federal and territorial support, if they knew the City were on board and had a real understanding of our ability to buy and help pay for the power coming across this line. If that line is in place, any other mining activities in the area have this added incentive, because their costs now would be that much lower.
As mayor, something I haven’t seen a lot of and would really look forward to is getting out there and making these pitches. It’s the type of stuff I love to do, I get excited about it, I think I can get others excited about it. It might be a bit tough with the Bay Street types cutting the cheques or the folks on Parliament Hill, but I believe I can make those pitches and get these projects rolling.
Your influence as mayor with these projects is basically limited to getting people to open those chequebooks, isn’t it? The City’s never going to have the money.
Of course not, but the City has all kinds of influence with respect to making those pitches, recruiting investment, residents, businesses to set up their offices here. The mayor has that ability as the leader of a council that accounts for 48 percent of voters in the NWT. It’s an opportunity I think needs to be pursued.
Style and approach
How different is that to how we’ve seen Mayor Heyck operate on a day-to-day basis. How differently would we see Mayor Bell doing the job?
I don’t really want to talk about past mayors because they’ve all got their different approaches. They all campaigned based on those different approaches and promises. I do know that we had one mayor in the past who was very much a connector – I’m thinking of Mike Ballantyne back in the day – going around and getting groups to assemble, connecting them with funders. The origins of NACC is an example, when the Globe and Mail was brought on board as a partner there. That’s the type of approach I’ve seen, not just in municipalities but in the business world, that I feel I would be good at and would appreciate the opportunity to prove that to residents.
You’ve said to me before you want the mayor to have a vote and almost have an agenda to pursue.
The vote is almost less important than the voice. Under the old set of rules, the mayor was not supposed to weigh in with an opinion. The mayor was supposed to govern the meeting. That is really unfortunate. It puts all of council in an unfortunate position, where you’ve got this individual who has enough experience to earn the votes of residents yet they are not allowed to use their voice. They’re required to use their voice through back channels or lobbying people. That is something I can believe I can be pretty effective at anyway, but the ability to speak to each issue and address some concerns of colleagues before they’ve even had an opportunity to speak… as a councillor, you speak early on because you know there are newer councillors who don’t have that depth of knowledge and are concerned about speaking to it or don’t know where to focus their analysis on an issue. As a more experienced councillor or mayor, I can speak first, I can lay out the pros and cons, here’s what I see as a workaround or a reason we can overcome and objection. That’s where the conversation builds from. And then you’d also have an opportunity to speak before the vote, say here is what I’ve heard, these are the good ideas, I agree with that, my view on this is this. For or against. You have that opportunity to set the tone of the conversation and it would be a complete difference.
Regardless of what happens next month, we are going to have the first voting, speaking mayor in this town’s history. That’s a transformative change right there, that has never happened. We’ve never seen what that can be like. In a council where only the mayor is a full-timer, it is going to make a huge difference. Councillors just don’t have the time and the access to administration to be able to have the kind of impact that any mayor could have, let alone a voting mayor. It’s going to be a powerful difference and it’s really important that residents consider what that will mean when deciding who they want for their mayor.
That turns the mayor into a little more of a personality as well – it gives them more of a soapbox at council meetings, that’s for sure. They already hold a high-profile office. We can all think of examples of mayors who wield their office with a bit of cult-of-personality attached to it. How do you guard against using a bolstered office of the mayor – not to say you would do this, but how would you make sure that isn’t used as a bully pulpit?
In places like Toronto, the mayor there has the ability to hire and fire directors and–
Yep, it’s a slightly different administrative system, for sure–
That’s not slightly different, it’s completely different. We don’t have that issue. Here, the mayor is still only one member of council with one vote. The other councillors are very easily able to keep the mayor in check.
Let’s look at a few other parts of your platform. The relationship with the GNWT is a really interesting example to me. In some parts of your platform you’re saying there are things we need to hive off, and the GNWT or even the federal government should be looking after some things that council concerns itself with right now. What would examples of those be?
Residents have been coming to me with what they consider to be areas of overlap. Sometimes overlap makes sense for brief periods of time, when it’s time to hold the GNWT’s feet to the fire. We saw that with the 10-year plan to end homelessness. It was important for us to say, ‘Look, we don’t think you’re doing enough. To us, you’re not even really measuring the problem. We’re going to measure it for you and then tell you whether you’re achieving objectives that are achievable for the North and suitable for Yellowknife.’ We did that. We know that’s their area of responsibility.
The danger is we might start funding the same types of projects. We don’t have the expertise and there would be a duplication of effort. That doesn’t make sense to me. We need to take a look at our involvement, specifically in the housing spectrum – are we going to create a whole new housing organization or should we do what a 2009 report said, which is to focus on below-market housing? No-one’s doing that right now. The GNWT doesn’t do it. It’s done in a lot of cities across Canada and around the world, so there is an opportunity to focus on that.
If you take a family that have jobs but are earning too much money to allow them to qualify for subsidized housing, but they’re not earning enough income to really be able to afford market housing, there is this missing middle section of housing often referred to as below-market housing. You’ll see something called inclusive zoning, where a city can allocate a piece of land and reserve it for a housing co-op. We haven’t seen any of those since the 1980s. They’re wonderful. We need more of them. Also, there are innovative products now available through the CMHC and developers, to say, ‘OK, you can have this piece of land for X price, but the condition is you have to allocate 25 percent of the units to below-market. We’re going to control what you can charge for those, whether you sell or rent them, they’ve got to be below-market and we need to see you keep them at below-market.’ Those are the types of tools that progressive cities are using to make sure that missing middle has options.
Homelessness and accommodation
We’ll come back in a few moments’ time maybe to some more sides of the housing equation. I want to talk about homelessness as well, because this ties in to an extent. Does the City need to be doing more than what is already in the 10-year plan to tackle this, or does the plan just need to now be followed, evaluated, and kept on track?
Certainly followed, evaluated, and kept on track. I think measurements every so often. If we don’t see this problem being measured, which was part of the problem before… you can’t manage what you don’t measure. We have to know, we have to keep our eye on this problem and make sure it’s being addressed by the government which should most appropriately address it, which is the GNWT.
I’m not saying there might not be other, innovative ideas that we could get behind. I do think there is an interesting role to play for the City in pilot projects across a variety of issues. We’re a little more nimble than the GNWT. We have the ability to say – I’ll use bike lanes as an example. What we should have done before building that bike lane on 52 Ave, which as you’ll recall I opposed that vote, the original plan was to establish a pilot project on 49 Ave. Part of a pilot project would include measuring who’s using it. Does it increase people using their bikes? Are cyclists finding it convenient? You have opportunities to try things before you go spend money on a permanent piece of infrastructure that you might later have to tear out because it appears to be dangerous.
We’ve got a couple of pilot projects under way right now. One that I brought forward was the homelessness employment program. That’s an opportunity to say, ‘Is this something that works? Is it creating opportunities for Yellowknifers who are vulnerable and experiencing homelessness? Is it enabling them to transition into long-term employment?’ But because it’s a pilot, there’s got to be a starting point and an ending point, and you have to measure the impact. That’s not something the City has done a lot of very well. If somebody comes along with a great initiative, whether it’s sports or homelessness or downtown revitalization or any other area, we have the opportunity to run good pilots projects and we should definitely not simply say we won’t look at these things. We have to be open to innovative things that we’re seeing work well in other cities, that might help us solve some of our entrenched problems.
I’m going to come back to housing and accommodation and look at the rental market. This is something you’ve talked about, you’ve posted about this online at some length regarding what you see as a coming crunch in the rental market as employment ramps up for the Giant Mine remediation, which is just about to really kick in. At the same time, a big plank of your platform is increasing tourism. There is a competing demand there for tourism accommodation. How do you balance and manage those?
I don’t think we manage them, I think it’s the market’s job to manage them. It’s the City’s job to make sure land is available, that construction costs are reasonable, or do what we can so permitting is simple enough, there are not projects being bogged down in red tape. Our job is to make sure that when there is demand… if we don’t have land available then the City is to blame for that. As long as we’ve got land available, it’s the market that will determine when it’s time to build.
So it’s not the City’s job, for example, to protect the needs of residents who are looking to rent over the needs of the tourist industry?
At some point, if we knew we had a huge problem, some cities do step in. But you don’t come out of the gate with regulations anticipating a problem.
So you don’t think there’s a problem right now?
No, I don’t.
But you are forecasting one in the very near future?
OK. Do you think council needs to take action beyond making land available right now, or will that be enough?
I’m not a fan of putting regulation in place before a problem rears its head. I don’t think anybody would appreciate that.
To some people, that may sound like: ‘Let’s wait until there’s a problem and then try to fix it.’
Well, let’s wait until we see a problem developing. As we’re a little bit closer to that starting point, or to a problem arising. We do have an ability to monitor these things going forward. I’m not going to put something in place because I see an issue arising 10 years from now. Let’s wait until a year before.
If we took that approach to climate change – well, we have taken it, and look at it.
There are a lot of problems where that same model doesn’t apply, Ollie. We’re talking about housing, we’re not talking about climate change.
We will know, two years in advance, whether or not we have some residential affordable housing in the pipeline. If we don’t, we have to have a different discussion. We’re not in that position right now. It’s something we’ll have to keep an eye on.
Over the past summer we’ve heard from councillors representing the construction industry’s view that these things take time in Yellowknife. There are short construction seasons, permitting takes time. Is that enough time to make changes and to give the market time to provide, if you leave it till a year out, two years out?
We’re going to have to make sure that it is enough time. There is another down side to putting regulations in place in advance. You can impact the appeal of investing in new residential housing. So if the City is talking about a whole bunch of rules… the problem we’re trying to solve right now is we’re trying to attract investment. Corporations take a look at the regulatory environment, they say, ‘These guys are contemplating all these rules – well, that’s compounding our problem.’
So what would you do with AirBnB, for example?
Well, we’re going to have to see how that conversation evolves.
You might be leading that conversation.
Sure. I use AirBnB when I travel. We really like to have that opportunity to have a kitchen and a little more cosy environment when we’re travelling. That’s something that I’ve seen how it works, it’s wonderful. Take European cities, for example, they’ve got real problems because they’ve got a real shortage of rental housing and a low proportion of home ownership, so their rental rates are a big issue and tourism in some of those cities is a huge issue too – or a huge opportunity and economic driver – so there, they have to do some things to restrict the number of units that can be used for AirBnB. But we also have controls already in place, in town. We’ve already seen it with one condo corporation: I think 90 to 95 percent of the condo corporations in town are going to restrict AirBnB entirely. They’re the ones who are going to say ‘no, we don’t want owners using these as AirBnB units.’ But that doesn’t restrict them from using them as long-term rental units. So that’s going to create a segment of units that are untouchable to AirBnB, that won’t be impacted. That will continue to be an area where long-term renters can find a home. There are already some controls in place.
I do think there is definitely a benefit in knowing where, and how many, AirBnBs there are. That’s at a bare minimum something the City should aspire to do. Does that mean we need to have permits for it? That’s part of the discussion. We’ll have to wait and see. I do think, on the whole, we can reduce red tape and restrictions currently in place, also for bed-and-breakfasts, to try to level the playing field. I do understand it is important to make sure the playing field is level. There will also be conversations about the hotel levy, of course. We want to make sure everyone who is benefiting from the hotel levy, and all the marketing the City will be doing starting hopefully next year, that they’re also paying into it. It shouldn’t be the hotels and-or the B and Bs that are bearing that burden alone. AirBnBs will have to be included in that, so that, again, requires a certain awareness of who’s doing the AirBnB or short-term rental thing.
Let’s quickly look at Old Town when we talk about this. This recently crossed council’s path. My understanding is, essentially, the rules were changed to allow proposals for hotel development and similar in Old Town to come before council, who would then consider them on a case-by-case basis. Which seems a reasonable step.
I don’t think it’s a reasonable step. We already have parking issues in Old Town but we’ve also got the Old Town character, which is very vulnerable to being influenced or changed. There are some types of development that a council just needs to take a close look at the character of the area and say, ‘That is not a permitted use. Not even conditionally permitted. We are worried about what that would do to the area so we’ll just restrict it entirely.’ You might get a very pro-development council this time, next time, or 10 years from now–
Presumably voted in by a population that was very pro-development, and that council would then find its hands tied.
Potentially, but that council might have been voted in for different reasons. It may not be because they wanted to see the Old Town character completely overhauled. But that could be an unfortunate side effect.
But there’s a danger to saying this council is the one that knows what’s best, and future councils don’t, isn’t there?
Future councils can change this bylaw at any time, but I’m on this council, so I’m making decisions as a member of this council. My preference is to say no, you should not be able to just bring these proposals forward to council. In some situations you have to have more safeguards in place, and for me that safeguard is prohibiting hotel and motel development in Old Town.
In its entirety.
How does that square with a philosophy of increasing tourism and letting the market decide?
There’s a lot more to this town than Old Town. Land use planning is one of the main things the City does, we make these judgements all the time – we can say you can do this here, you can’t do that there. That’s not something I’m at all uncomfortable with, it’s a tool we need to use. We’ve got all these other areas where a hotel can be developed. In the downtown we’re already seeing extensive hotel development and that’s wonderful, it’s going to have a huge impact on those areas. If we could have more of that in the transitional zone or some other part of the downtown, I think it would be transformative.
We need to take a look at our hotel strategy. This is where having a reallocation of resources to make sure that we have economic development people doing real economic development work at City Hall… we haven’t seen a lot of that because of the way that department is structured, and because of the resource we’ve put into it. Despite the best efforts of the people who have that title, they are pulled in all kinds of directions with communications responsibilities and all kinds of stuff. We need to reorganize that and ask them to develop a hotel strategy. Where is our hotel zone? Is it appropriate to have hotels out at the airport? My answer to that would be no, but that’s what these folks would help us research and say, ‘OK, if you want to attract hotels to the downtown, here’s what you need to do. You’ve got to have a non-hotel on the ground floor, it’s got to be retail, and they need to be of a certain size, here’s what kind of parking they need to have, here’s what these districts have done for other communities.’ Then they put that forward to council and ask if they support this. As part of that study I think they would look at Old Town and say no, we can’t have six-storey hotels going up around here, there is no parking and no room, traffic problems, all that type of thing. That type of analysis has yet to be done but I think it needs to be.
The general public so far, in conversations I’ve had with them, and even the candidates to some extent, tend to group yourself and Rebecca Alty quite closely together as similar candidates with similar levels of experience who are both coming from a background on City Council and both, to an outsider, appear broadly similarly aligned in what they want for this city. How do you differentiate yourself from her?
There are two main areas. First of all, track record. I’ve posted my track record to my website and I’ve talked about my style for council. That involves setting the agenda for City Hall, trying to set the direction and move the yardsticks on important files. For me, it’s not enough to sit there and evaluate proposals that come forward to administration. I want to bring forward proposals, I’ve done that 25 times in the last two terms. That is the main way I differentiate myself.
You’re saying she doesn’t do that.
I’m saying that’s what I do.
Yes, but by implication, therefore, you say she doesn’t.
I think we have very different styles. If you were to compare our track records, they would indicate we have different styles, and Yellowknifers need to decide which style is best suited to the next four and potentially more years. The other key point of differentiation for me is engagement. Going back to my first day on council, and even prior to that, I was writing online, trying to educate people or set the dialogue a little bit about issues that quite often, frankly, bore people, and that they don’t really have all the facts in front of them… and so sometimes it helps to have somebody assembling all of this and putting out blog posts or Facebook messages to show the things people should take into consideration, why issues are important, and you should hold us to account for our decisions. That’s something I have found to be very effective. I’ve used my website, my blog, and Facebook extensively to try to share my ideas with people and gather their feedback. That has been a wonderful tool and it’s something that I have done that differentiates me from other candidates.
In the last 30 seconds that we have available, just give us your vision for this city. In three, four years’ time, at the end of the next term – assuming you have been elected mayor, and obviously you work with a council and administration that whole time – what kind of track do you hope the city is on?
Thirty seconds, Ollie? Really?
Well you’ve had 40 minutes for the first half of it.
I think it’s important we elect leaders who don’t have their heads in the sand. We need to be aware there are economic challenges coming down the pipe. It’s possible other mining developments could come along and we won’t have that issue, but you want your leaders to be aware that is a possibility. We need to do what we can to strengthen and diversify our economy, and reduce our cost of living, so that if – and when – tougher economic times do come, for whatever period of time they last, we are more able to withstand those types of situation because costs have come down to some extent.
My vision – this is a great city, we can make it greater. Every time they have these visiting consultants who study cities come through town, they remark on all the fantastic things we have. We have a lot we can build on. There are some key areas we can improve on. I want this to be a city where our youth can see a path to having a future here, a career here, where seniors can see a path to ageing in place here, where we stop having to say goodbye to friends and loved ones who move south because they either can’t find opportunities here or can’t afford to live here. We are a great city; we can be even greater. I love hearing people talk about putting us on a world stage and doing things that perhaps make us the centre, or the capital, of X activity for the circumpolar world. Those are the types of conversation I want to have. Ten years from now, I want to have us regarded as the standout city of the circumpolar world.
MAYORAL CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS: Alty | Bell | Sibbeston | Stewart