Below are my answers to the Moose Jaw & District Labour Council Questionnaire asked of all candidates for Councillor in the 2009 Moose Jaw Civic Election:
1) What concrete steps can the City of Moose Jaw take within the next 10 years to reduce its environmental footprint, specifically, the reduction of greenhouse gases, energy conservation and the adoption of cleaner sources of energy?
The City of Moose Jaw must immediately develop and implement a comprehensive plan for urban sustainability, including improved public transportation, a citywide program for recycling and composting, a recycling program for businesses, maximizing energy conservation throughout the city (especially in city owned buildings and in regard to our outdated traffic lights and overused streetlights), more community gardens, a full-scale farmers market for the purchase of locally produced food, bike lanes, a car share program, well-maintained sidewalks and walking paths (to encourage more pedestrians), and ending urban sprawl while rebuilding core neighbourhoods instead. A basic definition of urban sustainability is “building cities for people instead of cars”. In order to reduce Moose Jaw’s greenhouse gas emissions, we must rethink our one car per person mentality, but first, the City must take measures so that it is possible and convenient to live without a car in Moose Jaw.
Furthermore, the City of Moose Jaw must do all we can to attract renewable energy and energy conservation industry to our city. We can set an example for the rest of the province by meeting our energy needs through renewable energy sources and fully utilizing energy conservation methods. Energy retrofitting and the installation of decentralized renewable energy, such as solar panels, must be done at the local level, meaning the creation of many new jobs—Green Jobs. Students will also come to Moose Jaw seeking training opportunities in Saskatchewan’s first potential off grid city. Moose Jaw can reduce greenhouse gases and limit the size of our growing ecological footprint—but we need strong leaders elected to City Council who are committed to doing so. We have waited too long to take serious action, and future generations who will live here are depending on us to make our city sustainable now. Thank-you for asking this very important question.
2) What specific steps will you take to encourage residents to incorporate environmental sustainability into their daily lives? How will you ensure that all residents are made aware and are able to access new and existing environmental programs and services?
To encourage residents to incorporate environmental sustainability into their daily lives, the City must make environmental sustainability as accessible and as convenient as possible to those who live and operate businesses here. As mentioned above, this will require immediately developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for urban sustainability, including improved public transportation, a citywide program for recycling and composting, a recycling program for businesses, maximizing energy conservation throughout the city, more community gardens, a full-scale farmers market for the purchase of locally produced food, bike lanes, a car share program, well-maintained sidewalks and walking paths, ending urban sprawl while rebuilding core neighbourhoods, and more.
Public education is a key component of urban sustainability, and the Moose Jaw Advisory Committee on the Environment (M.A.C.E.) is ideally situated to foster this public education on how to incorporate environmental sustainability into the daily lives of the people who live here. I have served as Member at Large on M.A.C.E. since the beginning of 2009, and there is some solid action being taken by Committee members toward public education on waste reduction (composting, recycling, reducing, reusing, etc.). However, throughout my term, the focus of M.A.C.E. has been mainly on waste reduction (in order to achieve a concrete goal with limited resources and limited staff). In order to broaden this focus and improve the ability of M.A.C.E. to foster greater public education while also ensuring all residents are made aware and are able to access new and existing environmental programs and services, perhaps the City needs to devote more funding and more focus to M.A.C.E.
3) How do you see the transit system evolving to meet the needs of all residents and communities?
Moose Jaw’s transit system must be made more accessible by extending hours and days of operation and taking a comprehensive overview of current bus routes. As someone who does not own a car and gets around Moose Jaw by foot or public transportation whenever possible, I have a good understanding of how the transit system can evolve to meet the needs of all residents and all communities. Hours of service must be extended to include evenings, and bus service should be offered on Sundays and holidays. The current limited schedule does not allow those without a car to get to work if they work outside of regular work hours (‘banking hours’). Moose Jaw’s transit system is a great asset and a great step toward urban sustainability, but it is not realistically capable of taking the place of a car for someone living here. The operating routes, which currently work on a loop cycle, tend to make public transit somewhat less convenient. For example, it takes five minutes for me to get downtown by bus where I live, but nearly half an hour to get home. This is fine in a city the size of Regina, but in Moose Jaw, where it takes a maximum of ten minutes to get between any two points in the city, I believe this could be made more accessible/convenient, and doing so should attract increased use of our transit system.
I also think it is worthwhile to look into extending transit service to surrounding communities. Partnering with Saskatchewan Transportation Company may be an option to pursue. I currently commute two days a week to Regina for class at the U of R, and I take the bus whenever possible. But it is expensive (at $26 a round trip to Regina for students), and the schedule is pretty limited. There are many people and students who commute between Moose Jaw and Regina (and vice-versa) on a daily basis. The City must advocate for and partner with other levels of Government to (re)connect Moose Jaw with major centers and surrounding communities via passenger train.
4) What steps can the City of Moose Jaw take to provide safe and affordable housing that is integrated into the community?
The recent housing boom has left many renters in Moose Jaw with increased rent and little opportunity to purchase their own home. Recent fires, capital projects, and buildings badly in need of repair have left many low-income renters displaced. Meanwhile, Moose Jaw continues to grow outward and our City Council continues to find money for capital projects. Affordable housing initiatives must take priority. As noted earlier, Council must develop and implement a comprehensive plan for urban sustainability in Moose Jaw, and one of the main components of urban sustainability is reviving core neighbourhoods through affordable housing initiatives. This requires the City to work with community organizations and follow their recommendations for affordable housing in Moose Jaw. The City will have to partner with these community organizations and other levels of Government to build more affordable housing, and where opportunities exist to turn city-owned properties or heritage buildings into affordable housing, these opportunities should be seized.
5) How will you ensure that marginalized residents have increased input in community and social planning?
I will push for the (re)establishment of a Social Planning Advisory Committee to provide marginalized residents with the opportunity for increased input in community and social planning. I will also be fully available to meet with anyone from Moose Jaw who has input into community and social planning, and I will provide a strong voice on City Council for the issues raised and the input provided. We must work together to ensure a healthy community and happy lives for everyone in the Friendly City.
6) (a) What is your short and long term vision for the growth of Moose Jaw? How do you hope to balance new growth with the revitalization of downtown and addressing the infrastructure problems of other neighbourhoods?
The City must attract green energy industry to Moose Jaw in order to create many new jobs. I have watched with great concern as industry has left Moose Jaw over the past few years, and in order to stop people from leaving Moose Jaw, we must find ways to provide good paying, meaningful, and sustainable employment to those in need. Green Jobs will provide long-term growth for our city, including training opportunities.
City Council must take measures to end urban sprawl and to rebuild core neighbourhoods instead. The population of our city hasn’t changed much over the years, but our city continues to grow outward. Clearly this is not sustainable, especially as more businesses move to the outskirts of the city to be closer to those living in these newly developed areas. Meanwhile, our downtown struggles, our mall is too vacant, and our core neighbourhoods are plagued with deteriorating buildings, sidewalks, and streets. The City needs to make a commitment to grow our community, not simply the geographical space our community consumes. This is possible with the right leadership.
(b) How do you expect to fund this?
As a citizen of Moose Jaw, I have watched as some capital projects are implemented while others are overlooked. I am not sure what has guided these decisions, but as Councillor, I will be able to provide leadership in this process. We need to make sure crumbling infrastructure is not overlooked because “we can’t afford it” when are told we can afford a new multiplex. Sound fiscal management is my answer. However, overtaxing our small businesses and low-income residents is NOT an acceptable answer, and this must be addressed by the newly elected Council.
As Finance and Administrative Director of the Young Greens of Canada for the past two years, I have demonstrated the necessary skills to provide sound fiscal management concerning all decisions made by City Council. In my role as Finance and Administrative Director, I have managed an entire departmental budget, and with proper management of our finances, the Young Greens Council has been able to meet many more goals than we had originally hoped to, and we had a small surplus of funds left over at year’s end. I am also the Leader of a provincial political party that is debt free. We need sound fiscal management of this sort on City Council. If we can afford to build new neighbourhoods and commercial areas on the outskirts of our city, surely we can start spending these funds on rebuilding our core neighbourhoods and downtown area instead. We will not begin to lower our ecological footprint or to regain our sense of community unless we take measures to end urban sprawl.
7) What is your position on the full or partial privatization of public services and projects?
I favour public ownership and the long-term benefits it offers.
8) How do you see your role as a City Councillor being a support mechanism for workers?
I believe that in a democracy, the people are in charge. I will be fully accountable to the people of Moose Jaw, and I will fully represent the interests of our citizens and our workers. I will be a dedicated voice on Council for the interests of workers, and I will be available to meet with any worker who has an issue to raise with Council.