This is a long post, but an important one. The voters of Ward 3 should know my opinion on these matters. Unlike with other candidates, there is no veil of secrecy in my campaign. I have an active blog for the sole reason of sharing my thoughts.
Unions might not be the best fit in every situation: no human-created system is perfect. The following Q&A is from an email exchange we had, over a month ago.
Please give us an example of your community involvement.
As a proud Canadian, I am in the Naval Reserve. I have volunteered for many homeless and veteran related charities. I have canvassed for charities. I have donated generously to charities. I give blood. I have been on my past university’s senate and associated committees. I have served on my community league’s board. I have been on the City of Edmonton’s Vehicle For Hire Commission. I have been the Treasurer of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute.
Further, my day-to-day work as an urban planner with Edmonton Public Schools brings me close to many Edmonton communities. I always seek the best outcomes for my employer and the communities we serve.
What makes you the best candidate running in your ward? (what skills, experience, passion would you bring to City Council?)
At 35 years old, I bring youth and fresh ideas. I have a masters degree in urban planning, which is important for someone that wants to build stronger communities.
I am also a commissioned naval officer, and an author of fiction. I am in touch with my artistic and creative sides while be grounded in reality. I have balanced budgets. I have travelled and worked hard. I understand what it means to complete a job.
I want to be the Ward 3 City Councillor because Ward 3 has been getting the short end of the stick for too long. I believe that I have the skillset to excel in this role. I will thrive outside of the confines of a regular work environment. I will be selfless and respectful to the people of Ward 3 in every decision that I make.
If elected, what would your priorities be as a Councillor? What do you think Council’s short and long-term goals should be?
My priorities are “Ward 3 First, North Side Second, The Rest of Edmonton Third.” This means that I would, once and for all, provide true representation to Ward 3. I would fight for equality in funding and do what I can to improve the reputation of the north side in general, while attempting to keep taxes low.
I would not focus on short-term goals, as those are often short-sighted. All of my decision would be in the long-term interest of Ward 3, the north side, and Edmonton. I want our roads, parks, and community amenities acceptable before we invest in niche projects.
For too long our Council has preached to the people. I want to truly reflect the opinions of Edmontonians.
Once a Councillor is elected, what role do you believe citizens have in shaping their decisions?
I would take a slight departure from the current culture on Council in order to promote the common-sense concept of what I call ‘Councillor Autonomy’. To me ‘Councillor Autonomy’ means being responsible to the local electorate first. To me, it will be: “Ward 3 First, North Side Second, and The Rest of Edmonton Third.” In its simplest form, it means that I will execute my duty to Ward 3 first prior to the rest of the City. But I will not make any decisions that hurt other areas of the Edmonton. I have also taken the opportunity to stand up for the north side as a whole.
I promise to act on important issues to the best of my ability. I will not be shy to ask for advice from the community and my colleagues. A Councillor is required to continuously listen to their constituents and I need to make access to myself easy and genuine. I will be open to hearing all points of view.
In Edmonton, the economy is the most unstable factor in our day-to-day lives. During my four years on Council we will have ebbs and flows. I will listen to the people if they think that we are spending beyond our needs, for example.
If elected, what would you do to address racism and gender inequality in Edmonton?
The City should be free from discrimination, as should every work environment. I think that we have already come along way in Canada and I am proud of our tolerance, especially in light of the situation in the rest of the world. But we can always do more.
We want only the best people working in Edmonton and only an unserious person would judge someone based on what they look like, or who they are, rather than what they can do. While those of different genders and races have had trouble receiving acceptance in the past, I am glad they are now all welcomed on the front lines.
Sometimes work cultures are prohibitive to change. Although my military service is short, my experience is that women have demonstrated on-par capabilities with men in traditional male-dominated roles, as an example. The ability of women, visible minorities, and LGBT+ individuals to perform jobs equally is demonstration that discrimination is bigoted and antiquated. Leading by example is the best way to change a culture, and I am thankful to the many women, visible minorities, and LGBT+ people that have proven themselves. We all have different perspectives on any given situation based on where we have come in life. I welcome a diversity of opinions.
I support zero-tolerance policies for discrimination and safe “whistle-blower” opportunities for concerned employees to report issues.
With regard to non-work environments, I want to encourage newcomers to feel comfortable in Edmonton. I want everyone to enjoy the full breadth of what Edmonton offers. Where required, the police should be involved at the community level.
Should Municipal Governments Be Run Like A Business?
No. The City should not be run like a business, but market principles need apply. There is an appropriate balance for how to run a City which is partially based on the state of the economy.
A municipality will never be a business—we need to emphasize compassion among our citizenry—there is a chance that a business would not do that. A City can’t leave its most vulnerable unprotected.
A municipal government should not be profit-driven, but it also cannot operate in a vacuum. In Alberta we live in a boom and bust reality. When times are good, they are great. But when times are bad, we can’t ignore the reality of hardship. When Edmontonian are out of work at record numbers, the City should also tighten its belt. When people are hurting, we need not invest millions downtown. We need to invest in people and core services.
General and basic City services should be subsidized. A cost-recovery approach should exist for niche non-essential services. The costs of building permits should include the full processing cost incurred by the City.
Do you support increasing taxes to maintain the levels of public service?
I strongly believe that we can maintain or increase levels of public service without raising taxes if we re-prioritize our spending. I am not in favour of giving $300 million to a billionaire, for example. If we negotiated downtown development better than we have, we could realize better services in the neighbourhoods and lower taxes. I would play hardball with anyone wanting freebies. Having said that, it is important for the City to realize how and when to invest in civic infrastructure—with a clear understanding of the desired outcome, rather than just supporting vanity projects (like the 80-storey tower that ignores many of the planning rules and guidelines).
Do you believe that the city needs additional sources of revenue other than property taxes, user fees or provincial/federal grants?
Although property taxes are only paid by property owners, I understand that rental rates are influenced by what the landlord pays. I am of the belief that if you are living in Edmonton, you are contributing in some manner. That is sufficient. I want to create the situation where more renters become homeowners, but I would not tinker with our current revenue generating streams.
I do not support City-specific sales taxes, additional gas taxes, or any other similar scheme (including photo-radar). I will do what I can to reduce taxes. Low taxes are a good start for morale, self-determination, and personal investment: all traits that I admire.
Regarding provincial/federal grants. I recognize that there is only one taxpayer. I will fight for Ward 3 first, and the North Side second, but I do not want the provincial and federal governments dishing out excessive amounts of cash in areas beyond their jurisdictions.
How do Councillors ensure that public tax dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible?
City Council needs to give Administration the direction that contracts should not go to the cheapest bid received. There needs to be a long-term vison for every investment. Often the bidders “in the middle” provide the best long-term value to taxpayers.
Tax dollars need to be spent in a transparent and accountable manner. Existing and proposed programs need to be analyzed for the results they are trying to achieve. If there is a more efficient way of doing something, while maintain the integrity of the program, then let’s do that.
Should the City be taking the lowest bids for procurement in the interest of the rate-payers or should they be looking into wages and labour standards of those offering to provide goods and services to the City?
I’ve always said that I am interested in investing in people over things, but we should also get value for every tax dollar spent. When a contract bid is received, we should look at it holistically. We should not necessarily go for a company that pays their workers more, but we should recognize that if there is high morale and job satisfaction within a company, then perhaps they offer a better product. Likely we will find that the middle-bidders pay their employees a bit more and that there is a positive correlation with the quality of work that they do.
Typically the middle-bidder is in the interests of rate-payers when you factor in long-term value of a project based on quality and durability. Also, where possible, I want to support Edmonton and Alberta-based companies.
Do you support the use of Public Private Partnerships (P3’s) to finance projects?
Although evidence on the true effectiveness of P3s is inconclusive, I support well-thought out P3s for construction projects that are beyond the City’s core responsibilities/specialities. To the extent possible, all maintenance contracts should resort to City employees once a project is constructed. While this is not always the case, pressure should be put on the private sector partner to limit the post-construction maintenance agreements (e.g. 5 years instead of 20).
For intermittent service related projects, such as snow clearing, it is okay to have some private help in the fringe, for the very large snow events. Our core staff should be able to satisfy routine work—P3s are okay for “beyond the ordinary” or when special expertise is required.
Edmonton is the core of a region that includes 20+ municipalities. Do you believe that a regional strategy on service sharing is necessary and if so, how do you see such a strategy unfolding?
It depends on the service and the needs of each municipality. Some services are probably more readily agreeable to all 20+ municipalities, such as transit. In this case, a multilateral transit authority may make sense. For other services, such as garbage disposal, it could cause friction. Many of the other municipalities are rural and so we have to be careful when we mesh urban and rural services together. It is possible for every municipality to get a less than desirable result if we force a one-size fits all mentality.
I am in favour of service amalgamation to the extend that cost sharing is possible (which may include bulk purchases for buses and snow plows). I am not in favour of losing individual municipal identities. I want to be the councillor for Ward 3 Edmonton. I do not seek to influence Leduc, St. Albert, or Beaumont. For this same reason, I am not in favour of aggressive Edmonton-led annexations.
Do you have experience working in an unionized environment? What role do you believe a union plays in the running of a city like Edmonton?
I have worked for the Amalgamated Transit Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers. Much of my family has worked in unionized environments, including my wife who is a teacher. In my experience, I find that unions perform less than ideally when morale is low.
Edmonton is large and its employees make it great. I value everyone that works hard and I think that the employees of Edmonton are currently doing a great job. From an existing employee-employer relationship, if anything needs reforming—it is the mid-management to the extent that morale could be increased amongst the workers. As mid-management takes many of their cues from Council, perhaps a change on Council will provide renewed morale amongst workers. I also find that the City can give a little to get a lot back—such as by sponsoring employee appreciation events and awards.
Unions are important to a city like Edmonton, including for some office workers. To deliver services properly to our citizens, we need workers who care. Workers who care are usually those who are respected for the work that they do. A union with strong morale is an asset to the City.
Further, the City of Edmonton, as a large employer, often leads the way for better private sector job conditions elsewhere, benefiting all Edmontonians. The City of Edmonton can lead by example.
What do you believe are the benefits/drawbacks of having services provided directly by the City of Edmonton (eg. Rec centres, transit, fire rescue, etc.)
Core services are important to the functioning of a large city such as Edmonton. City workers should deliver core services. There are no drawbacks to having City employees deliver on core services.
City of Edmonton employees are highly trained and professional—their employment is a form of quality control and assurance to the citizenry. Further, with competent staff, insurance rates may be lower. We have to look at all situations holistically.
With regard to more specialized services, such as recreation centres—it is still nice to have City employees do the work. When quality recreation services are provided, for example, it is possible for the City to recoup costs through user fees. The professionalism that comes with municipal employees means that most users will receive satisfaction from the services rendered, and residents will not mind paying the fees.
For the case of recreation, the City has to complete with private sector gyms. If the City can remain competitive, then it is a good thing: it provides Edmontonians with more choice.
That’s it. What do you think?
North Side Journal