Victoria is about to decide who wins this term’s city council
If you haven’t decided who to vote for yet, or are having trouble understanding what exactly our municipal figureheads even do, Monday has asked each of this term’s candidates a few questions to help decode their illustrious intentions as well as the municipal mystery for us all.
Marianne AltoQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: I have five priorities for the next three years: 1) Mitigating the high cost of living in Victoria by facilitating more affordable housing — including co-ops and co-housing — more jobs and decent wages. 2) Continuing to reduce homelessness, particularly for vulnerable people who need housing that comes with supportive social services and integrated health and harm reduction services. 3) Regional planning and delivery of primary services, like transportation, police services and emergency preparedness. 4) Implementing the open-government and open-date strategies recently endorsed by council. 5) Finding new sources of funds so we can continue to deliver high-quality municipal services and limit tax increases.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I love Canadian football — and I play the oboe.
Chris ColemanQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: If the noble goal is to continue building a “sustainable” but affordable community for all, then one of the conerstones has to be a range of housing options.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I sit as one of 75 elected members on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities National Board, and I am the only one from Vancouver Island. We advocate on behalf of all cities and communities with the federal government on a range of issues including a national housing and homelessness strategy, transportation strategy, municipal interest in the nation’s immigration policy and the role cities and towns play in “Climate Change Adaptation.” Of this work I am very proud. The skills that I bring to the FCM table are the same ones I use in my work on council: an aptitude for meeting with people and listening to their problems, an ability to weigh various (often competing) perspectives and a desire to find solutions that make our community better and safer for everyone.
Shellie GudgeonQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: I believe that the critical issue facing our community is the need for greater collaboration with residents, businesses and advocacy groups at City Hall as well as a need for greater openness and transparency. More co-operation and communication among the various levels of our municipal government is one of my key goals.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: That I contribute to and support many diverse causes in the city. As a concerned citizen, I also regularly attend public meetings involving city concerns, such as sewage treatment, protection of our waterways, waste disposal, our transportation system and many other issues and problems that are facing our neighbourhoods and communities.
Aaron HallQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: To implement Open Government in the City of Victoria. This includes creating a new, effective, regular, affordable and timely form of public consultation. Our discussion forum is already active — the Open Government we intend to implement has already been started. We did not need any feasibility studies to be done before we began this process.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I have my own Local Food Show that is aired occasionally on Shaw Channel 11 named, “Delicious.” This show is a not-for-profit show which showcases local restaurants and food producers whom I have good relationships with. The purpose of the show is to give local business some free exposure based on their good services. This show has been a very fun experience and has helped some local business get some quality TV air time.
Lisa HelpsQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Our city. I hope to make an Infrastructure Priority Plan to care for the city’s assets within the city’s means and implement Victoria’s Economic Development Strategy to create jobs. Also, our City Hall. I hope to increase citizen participation and oversight and increase openness in the city’s budgeting process. And, our community. I hope to build affordable housing using community investment funds, strengthen the local economy with small business tax incentives, create an age-friendly city that incorporates and honours seniors, encourage innovation and community economic development in neighbourhoods and foster and support activities that build connections between people.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I am a blend of neighbourhood-based community building and action, big-picture thinking and fiscal responsibility. The gift I bring to the council table is the ability and the experience to take all of these things into consideration to create innovative solutions at City Hall. I founded and run a local organization called Community Micro Lending, which makes small loans to people who don’t qualify for credit from banks. This reduces local poverty, helps people start businesses and provides people who have money with an opportunity to invest their money locally.
Rose HenryQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: The health of our community. I know that we all are going to be going through a lot of stress as our community is about to lose access to the Johnson Street bridge for several months, and that we will all be paying for it for the many decades to come. So when we are under stress we will react in many different ways to it. When we all react, our community services are then stretched beyond the maximum safety level which has rippling effects that are very costly.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: That I have a long history of never walking away or giving up an any issue without a valid reason; hence this is why I am still pursuing the constitutionally charter challenge for Bill C – 31 under the federal voter ID requirement — three and a half years later.
Lynn HunterQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: With each decision taken at council, I consider what is in the public interest. More affordable housing meets this test.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I have a twin sister. You have to guess which of us is the evil twin.
Ben IsittQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: The growing gap between rich and poor is squeezing the incomes of working people, youth, seniors and middle-income earners. This “prosperity gap” diminishes the quality of life as the cost of living rises, while contributing to homelessness and costly social problems. If elected as city councillor and CRD director, I will work to narrow this gap, advocating for a CRD Housing Levy to create a seed fund capable of mobilizing federal and provincial funds for new co-operative and supported housing. I will also advocate for a Safe-Consumption Site to reduce harm from addictions, addressing the health of users while reducing property crime affecting residents and businesses. Finally, I will address the “prosperity gap” by containing tax increases, through a review of the police budget, limits on the size of senior management at City Hall and energy efficiency savings in city operations.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I have visited more than 50 countries in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe for work and pleasure, experiencing rich cultural diversity while witnessing the economic, social and environmental challenges confronting our small planet. I have seen the impact of glaring poverty and environmental despoliation but also have been inspired by innovative local responses — protecting and enhancing green spaces, providing “housing for all,” supporting vibrant public markets and the arts and creating alternative economic models that manage resources and distribute wealth fairly and sustainably. With your help, we will start putting these ideas into practice in Victoria.
Sukhi LalliQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: I decided to run for council because a combination of social issues, including how the emergence of Uptown and the Big Box world are keeping people away from downtown and city shopping. Clearly, the social issues associated with downtown need to be dealt with. The Hughes Report on Homelessness has given the city some guidance, but clearly council is not putting effort into working with the provincial government which has jurisdiction over most social issues. Council and the mayor need to work with the province to address homelessness and addiction issues and this includes consulting with neighbourhoods in the quest for a fixed needle exchange site — though my own preference would be multiple, smaller-volume sites. I provide harm reduction supplies at my pharmacy and the volume distributed has escalated significantly since the fixed-site needle exchange closed.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: People assume that because I’m a businessman and have tossed my hat in the ring with Open Victoria, that I’m a center-center-right thinking person, but I’m actually more center-left in my thinking and approach to social issues. I agree, however, that city council needs to be more prudent with taxpayers’ money. The establishment of a large communications department, ignoring reports on city infrastructure (Crystal Pool, Yates St. Fire Hall, etc.) and the annual growth of property and business taxes with no visible improvement or change in the downtown and little council response to neighbourhood problems tells me that it’s time to put some new ideas forward.
Philippe LucasQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Planning that supports social, environmental and economic sustainability is the most important priority for Victoria now, and tomorrow. In a region with such a high cost of living and childhood poverty, we need to develop policies that create economic opportunity and vibrancy while maintaining and enhancing our natural environment. That’s why I support community economic development and the benefits of a localized economy, work to increase urban agriculture and food security at council, CRD and in the community and voted to stop wi-fi Smart Meters. Additionally, I was the only councilor to vote against this year’s seven per cent residential tax increase, and the only CRD director to vote to keep sewage treatment 100 per cent public. We need to replace short-term thinking with responsible long-term planning, so over the next three years I’m going to promote strategies at council and the CRD to boost our local economy, improve food security, increase civic engagement, reduce poverty, homelessness and addiction and create a more age and family-friendly Victoria.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: Victoria voters know me pretty well by now, but I should reveal that every Easter I dress up as the Easter Bunny to emcee a free Easter Egg Hunt at Market Square sponsored by Hip Baby.
John LutonQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Housing tops everyone’s priority list in Victoria. We’ve taken on street homelessness, helping leverage the development of supportive and affordable solutions for the hard-to-house, but we need to keep the momentum going. We’ve brought in supports for secondary and garden suites. We’re working with our development industry to rescue heritage buildings and bring more housing downtown and that also adds to the vibrancy of Victoria. I’m there to share the workload with mayor and council on more creative solutions to address our housing pressures. I support short-term incentives for rental housing and more “car-light” housing to take advantage of Victoria’s growing reliance on cycling, walking and transit to meet many of our transportation needs. It’s a sustainable approach that can help reduce the cost of housing. People who work in Victoria should also be able to live in Victoria.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: The media often focuses on my history as “the bike guy,” but they should look at that record and realize that I am the “get things done guy.” My successes demonstrate an ability to work well with others on practical solutions to meet our transportation challenges, and that work ethic will serve to support council’s work on so many other issues.
Pam MadoffQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Having been on council for some time, I believe that how decisions are made is the most important aspect of serving on council. Well-thought-out decisions that are supported by research, experience and community input has been my practice. I also believe that the principles of sustainability, including a triple-bottom-line approach, should be brought to all decisions. Still, it would be impossible for me not to highlight the issues surrounding housing as a particular priority. As I have a particular interest in planning and urban design, I am very proud of the fact that, during the past term, council has updated both the Official Community Plan and the Downtown Core Area Plan. In terms of planning, I look forward to reviewing neighbourhood plans with a particular emphasis on village centres.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: Perhaps that, in spite of playing a regulatory role as a member of council, I often find the greatest joy and satisfaction in the unplanned: spontaneous community initiatives — even pre-flash mobs — that remind us all that the energy and creativity of the community is the heartbeat of the city. A favourite gardening book, A Gentle Plea for Chaos, espouses a favourite principle that in “controlled disorder lies the essence of beauty.”
Linda McGrewQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Sustainability is my number-one priority. This encompasses both financial and environmental issues. Our current solutions to sewage, land use, transit and garbage are unsustainable and insufficient. As a city, we must stand up and protect our air, land and water. We can do this by promoting initiatives that find a balance between supporting business and supporting the environment — initiatives to create new solutions for services, infrastructure and land use. Decisions don’t have to be a choice of either money, or the earth. We can make decisions that support both the local economy and the global environment at the same time.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I spent three years in China, where I not only learned Mandarin Chinese, but also became a much better person. There, I learned to have more appreciation for women’s issues and equality; I learned how populations devastate the planet, but how one voice can make a difference and I learned compassion and understanding towards ways of thinking that are so very different than my own. (This passage also translated into Mandarin.)
Sean MurrayQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: My first priority is creating a clean, green environment. I see sewage treatment and L.R.T. as investments that will pay for themselves in the long run. Our solid sewage can be used to fertilize newly planted trees and perhaps converted to methane gas to power our city. If people switch to L.R.T. from automobiles, they will save on gas and other expenses associated with driving. These projects will also create jobs.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I would like people to know that I hold a diploma in pure and applied sciences and studied biology at McGill for one year and at UVic for another. I also ran for president of the U.V.S.S. about 22 years ago. I came second out of three. I took an elective in economics and feel that my diverse background will be an asset to the people of Victoria. I call myself a soft capitalist from the political centre.
Charlayne Thornton-JoeQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: We are finally making some progress in the area of homelessness, mental illness and addictions. We cannot become complacent. Much work is still needed.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I used to play competitive tennis both in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. I stopped playing competitively when we got our Alaskan Malamute. Our activity changed from tennis to hiking with our dog, Akela. And, one of the highlights of my life was meeting musician Les Paul!
John C. TurnerQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Developing a complimentary “Community Economy” with social rehabilitation, community education-volunteerism-internships-employment-entrepreneurialism, investments, tax decrements, gardens, farming, commerce and alternative mass transportation infrastructure.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I have grown up in Victoria and been a children’s and youth leader and mentor for 20 years, a community support worker and street cousellor for more than 16 years and an international socio-economic development researcher and advisor for 14 years. Mainlining in transportation, public works infrastructure, medical care, community housing and employment, I have the vast wealth of applied knowledge that it will take to develop a new level of excellence in social and economic developments across our region for the next six to 12 years. I have been consulted internationally on the development of an alternative, but complimentary Community Economy, and I am volunteering for Victoria City Council and CRD Regional Director to introduce this locally for the increased social prosperity of all residents of Victoria and the CRD.
Jon ValentineQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: There are quite a few, as the three main areas I’ve been involved with for quite a few years — homelessness, environmentalism and the arts — have a tendency to interrelate on some occasions. I do want to see more investment in people first, so I’d say housing for low/middle incomers would be my priority, and with potential resource offices and community gardens with such housing, if doable.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: A famous acting legend made the quote “a little mystery goes a long way,” so I’d recommend going to votevalentinevictoria.shawwebspace.ca for more info. Oh, and I’ve got a semi-significant stack of old Monday Magazines, with earliest complete issue dated June 18 – 24, 1992.
Geoff YoungQ: What will be your most important priority as councillor?A: Addressing climate change is our most important long-term priority. I support a Carbon tax, a simple way to raise the price of greenhouse gases (including methane, CFCs, etc.). It would encourage better insulation for buildings, more solar and wind power, and above all less travel by car and plane, more by train and bike and foot. Our best way of reducing emissions is through good regional planning — I support rapid transit systems, density in the downtown, and walkable communities, but regional planning to reduce energy consumption and preserve the environment would be easier if everyone paid the true cost of travel, particularly road travel. A carbon tax on a global scale would also mean more demand for local food as the price of distant-sourced food rose to reflect transportation costs. We must not sacrifice the benefits of compact communities to guarantee local food supplies, but we can have some land that does double duty, providing open space and recreation as well as food.
Q: What is one thing the voting public does not know about you yet?A: I thought the purpose of this was to persuade people to vote for me! M
Editor’s note: candidates missing from Q & A: Saul Andersen, Robin Kimpton