WARD 2 BY-ELECTION 2020
The election for Ward 2 is just around the corner! Unsure which candidate aligns best with your views? We’ve got you covered! Happy City St. John’s sent out a questionnaire to all candidates to get more insight on them and their campaign. Check out their responses below!
Note: Ophelia Ravencroft’s answer to question 11 was inadvertently attributed to Shawn Skinner and his answer was omitted until 30 September. We regret the error.
Existing candidate info
Juanita Mercer at The Telegram also interviewed all the candidates (the results were published here on Sept 24th but may require subscription to read).
The Social Justice Coalition also did two one-hour town hall sessions the same evening – the first with Matt Howse, Greg Noseworthy and Lorne Loder and the second with Ophelia Ravencroft, Greg Smith, Shawn Skinner and (from 28 minutes in) Wallace Ryan.
The Racket wrote a spotlight article for each of the candidates, you can see them all here.
The St. John’s Status of Women Council hosted a Q&A regarding feminism and issues affecting women and marginalized people in our community.
Candidates’ public profiles
- Carol Anne Furlong (CF) (She/Her)
- Gregory Noseworthy (GN) (He/Him)
- Greg Smith (GS) (He/Him)
- Lorne Loder (LL) (He/Him)
- Matt Howse (MH) (He/Him)
- Ophelia Ravencroft (OR) (She/Her, They/Them)
- Shawn Skinner (SS) (He/Him)
- Wallace Ryan (WR) (He/Him)
Town Hall – Wed, Oct 14
We will be holding a virtual town hall of our own on Wednesday, October 14, 7:00pm-8:30pm which you can follow live via Facebook or watch at your leisure. More information will be available in the coming days. If you have questions that you would like us to ask the candidates, please tag us on social media (use #Ward2YYT on Twitter) or email them to us.
How To Vote
The election period will take place from Monday, October 5th to Tuesday, October 20th. To qualify as a voter, you must have residency in the Ward 2 since September 20th, 2020.
- Register online if you have identification that identifies you and where you live; or
- On election day, October 20th, you can visit one of the satellite drop off centers (Royal Canadian Legion, 930 The Boulevard or The Knights of Columbus on St. Clare Avenue) between the hours of 8:00 am – 8:00 pm and get sworn in there.
Candidate Survey Results
- Do you live in the Ward? If not, what area do you live in?
- Please provide a brief bio.
- Why did you decide to run for council?
- What do you see as the key issues currently facing Ward 2?
- What changes or initiatives would you advocate for if elected to Council?
- If you had a whole day off to spend in your ward relaxing, what would you do?
- How do you think your ward will change over the next five years?
- How do you plan to reach potential voters given current COVID-19 concerns?
- Increasing density and mixed uses are priorities in the new municipal plan. Where would you like to see more density in your ward?
- What is your favourite example of built heritage in Ward 2?
- What single policy do you think the city should implement related to our heritage preservation?
- How will you balance development pressures against the need to preserve heritage in Ward 2?
- The increased costs from tackling snowmageddon and COVID coming on top of an already difficult economic climate mean there will be pressure on the city’s finances. How should the city respond?
- Ward 2 is the home to a number of community agencies, neighbourhood associations and tenant associations. What would you do to support these groups and to bring their work into meaningful alignment with City efforts, such as transparency, consultation, and good development and redevelopment?
- In your opinion, what is the best decision the St. John’s City Council has made, and why?
- In your opinion, what is the worst decision the St. John’s City Council has made, and why?
- Please rank the level of attention you think Council should pay to each of these transportation modes in the coming term (1 = most important, 5 = least).
- What should the City Council do to make St. John’s a healthier place to live?
- What changes need to happen to have more diversity in age, gender, race, and life experience on Council?
- How do you feel about the campaign finance reforms that will be enforced next year? Will you abide by the new guidelines voluntarily?
- From January – October 2021, there will be 10 sitting members of City Council, leaving room for tied votes. With this in mind, how will you work collaboratively with fellow council members to reach an agreement on behalf of residents?
- How will you ensure that marginalized members of the community are supported and heard by city council?
- Is there any concrete policy position or issue we have not covered you would like to share?
Do you live in the Ward? If not, what area do you live in?
- CF: I grew up in Ward 2 and now live Ward 2. The majority of my family continue to live in Ward 2. I feel it is the commitment to taxpayers’ issues and the availability of the councillor to taxpayers, rather than where you live, that will decide the quality of representation.
- GN: Yes!
- GS: Yes and born and raised in it!
- LL: Yes, I’ve lived in Ward 2 for all of my adult life.
- MH: Yes.
- OR: Yes, my family and I live in the downtown core
- SS: I live in the West End of the city, Cowan Heights.
- WR: Yes.
Please provide us with a brief bio.
- CF: Former labour leader, worked in areas of consumer protection, worked with persons with disabilities; MUN graduate
- GN: Born and raised in St. John’s I have lived here all my life except for 3 academic years in New Brunswick. I have a B.A., J.D., and am a member of the NL Law Society as barrister and solicitor. I have always been active in the community through sport and volunteering, including coaching young kids through St. John’s Youth Soccer, working with Seniors NL, Empower, 50+ clubs, the East Coast Trail Association, and volunteering with various other groups and events. I am an active hiker, outdoorsman, and weight lifter in my spare time, and enjoy competing in local craft homebrew beer competitions! I work at a non-profit (The Public Legal Information Association of NL), where I sit on provincial and national boards and committees with a goal of social reforms and helping those in need. I also maintain a small local law practice.
- GS: My name is Greg Smith, I’m 24 years old and was born and raised in centre city St. John’s. I went to three great neighbourhood schools Bishop Abraham, Holy Cross JH & Booth. Currently I am a Curling Instructor and Program Coordinator at Bally Haly as well as a Curler.
- LL: I’m a small-business person. I’ve been operating businesses on Water Street for over twenty five years. I started Ballistic Skate & Snow in 1995 and operated it successfully for over twenty-one years. I’ve purchased several older heritage homes in the downtown area over the years and renovated them while preserving the facades and in some cases the interiors. I held the music festival, Harbourage, on the Harbour front in 2014 and 2015 while raising money for both The Gathering Place and Eastern Edge Gallery, and more recently I’ve ventured into the restaurant business with Boca Tapas Bar and Cojones tacos & tequila. In other more community-minded endeavours, I ran for City Council in 2013 and came very close to being elected in my first bid. I then sat on the Downtown St. John’s Board between 2014 and 2016. I like to keep busy and have always been very engaged in the community and particularly Ward 2! Ward 2 is my home, my place of business, it’s where I’ve spent the majority of my life. When I’m not working, I like to snowboard, paddle board, and swim in ponds every chance I get.
- MH: Matt Howse was the owner/operator of Broken Books on Duckworth Street for six years (2014-2020) and a founding investor of Fixed Coffee and Baking (2012-2019). He is a graduate of Memorial University with a B.A. in English (2007), a B.Ed. (2008). and an M.A. in Folklore (2012). He has worked as a high school teacher, historical interpreter, and eco-tourism guide. Matt is an avid hiker and cyclist who is currently employed as a residential youth care worker and often helps his partner Lisa with her business, Oh My Cheeses, at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market and in Port Rexton. Matt and Lisa live in Ward 2 with their two cats, a dog, and many books.
- OR: I’m an academic, writer, and advocate for local causes of equity and justice. I’ve written and worked particularly extensively on issues of sex worker rights, trans and queer visibility, and gender equity. I’m a nonbinary woman, and will be the first openly nonbinary person elected in Canadian history if I win this election. I’m currently completing a PhD in ethnomusicology where I apply a gender analysis lens to the heavy metal community of St. John’s, and live in the downtown core with my beautiful young family.
- SS: I am a lifelong resident of St. John’s. My whole life I have been a volunteer and have given my time and energy to groups like; the Friends of Victoria Park, the St. John’s Boys and Girls Club, End Homelessness St. John’s, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Regatta Committee, and many more. I love this City and want its residents to prosper and thrive. I have experience at the municipal and provincial government levels and believe that my experience will be helpful to the City and its residents during these difficult times. I know Ward 2 very well. I grew up in Ward 2, went to school there, have family living there and do a lot of my social and personal activities in Ward 2. I have represented the residents of Ward 2 before and was known as a “hands on” Councillor. I returned calls, I went to see the issues of concern to people and I pushed Council to be more responsive to the needs of the residents of Ward 2. I will continue to do that if the people of Ward 2 want my experience, passion, knowledge and drive on Council. I humbly ask for your support! Vote Skinner, Shawn.
- WR: I was born and raised in St. John’s and educated at St. Pius X and Gonzaga High School. I worked at my grandfather John J. Ryan’s grocery store in the 1970’s and at my father Wallace J. Ryan’s wholesale warehouse. I moved to Toronto in 1980 to go to the Ontario College of Art and where I went up against a crowd of 200 anti seal hunt protestors and was attacked for standing up for Newfoundland & Labrador. I moved to New York City in 1983 to finish my term at the College and returned to St. John’s to work in advertising and the arts. I’ve taught Figure Drawing and Cartooning at Memorial University and the Anna Templeton Centre and co-founded the Breakdown Comic Jam and the PURE COMIX Festival of Graphic Literature. I returned to New York City in 2006 after the death of my wife and worked for artist Carter Kustera, which included clients like Barney’s New York, Bloomingdales and John Frieda. Since coming back to St. John’s in late 2009, I’ve continued my work as an instructor and a comic book artist and community activist. I fought to save the Bandstand in Bannerman Park, to restore Rawlin’s Cross to it’s historic configuration and create the Water Street Pedestrian Mall
Why did you decide to run for council?
- CF: I felt I could make a difference.
- GN: Politics is my dream and I believe I have the education, work experience, and energy to make an impact in our city.
- GS: Fundamentally I want to see a prosperous St. John’s of the future, where all people are heard and brought to the table. Many people my age have left St. John’s for jobs and opportunities elsewhere. I want to help turn that tide and be a proponent in this cities success. I want this city to be a home for everyone from young people like myself, people starting a career, business and a family to an attractive place for people to retire. In my campaign we have people of all political stripes and I promise to be a strong voice when elected for everyone, young and old, right and left wing. This is our home, our ward, our city and our collective future. I believe, I’m the best person to represent Ward 2 at the peoples city hall for all people and perspectives!
- LL: I have been entwined with City Hall for decades. Given my history in different business ventures downtown I’ve been dealing with City Hall quite directly and frequently for most of my life. In addition, serving on the Downtown St. John’s Board gave me great insight into the many aspects of municipal workings. I’ve always been involved, invested and engaged with the city and City Hall. Being on City Council seems like the next logical step for me in my vocation, I feel it’s the right fit. I love this city, and the downtown and I want to bring my energy and creativity to City Council and improve the city and the Ward that I call home.
- MH: Through my involvement in downtown small businesses I learned a lot about the priorities at City Hall, and how those priorities are reflected in the day-to-day life of St. John’s. I think there are lots of small policy changes we can make that would go a long way to make the city more accessible and enjoyable for everyone who lives here. I also have experience with provincial election campaigns–my father ran three times for the NDP in central Newfoundland and I ran for them once–so I knew what I was getting into in terms of preparation, fundraising, canvassing, etc.
- OR: I’ve learned from both my work, and my personal life, just how critically important it is for our government to focus on supporting, and uplifting, the most vulnerable members of our society. I’m running because I think that focus often gets lost – and because I want to change that. I know firsthand the importance of issues like sidewalk snow clearing, public transit, accessibility, and affordable housing, and I want to work to make them our city’s key foci so that we can all access and enjoy our beautiful city the way we all deserve. I’m also running because I don’t see enough people with my experiences in power, and I want to change that, too. Ensuring that our leaders speak from places of diverse lived experiences will empower our government to better represent our diverse population, and to speak and act with greater compassion. That’s real progress in action, and it’s good for everyone. Finally, I’m running because nobody like me has yet – I’m the first openly nonbinary person to run for office in our province, and would be the first one elected in Canada. Visibility and representation matter, and I hope my presence inspires more 2SLGBTQIA+ people to run in the future!
- SS: We are facing difficult times as a City. We are over budget and Council is contemplating a tax increase. I do NOT support an increase in taxes. Council must live within its means, the same as its residents are doing. We need to prioritize what services are important and ensure we deliver these services in the most cost effective ways. My experience with both levels of government will be an asset at this time. Ward 2 needs somebody who can hit the ground running and that person is me. No other candidate offers the experience I have and that is something that will be of benefit to Ward 2 residents. There are many issues that need immediate attention (budget planning, Parish Lane Development, snow clearing, noise control, livable neighborhoods, accessibility, and transportation). I have the experience, the knowledge and the energy to deal with these issues. If you want a passionate, hands on, experienced Councillor – Vote Skinner, Shawn.
- WR: I spent the winter and spring of 2020 putting forth petitions that helped lead to the restoration of Rawlin’s Cross and the creation of the Water Street Pedestrian Mall and it was the success of the Mall that inspired me to seek public office so I could take part of the decision making process in the city.
What do you see as the key issues currently facing Ward 2?
- CF: MY priority is ensuring taxpayers are not faced with a tax increase in these difficult economic times. Snow clearing, especially in areas of high pedestrian traffic. Affordable housing (and pursuing this matter with federal and provincial governments).
- GN: City accessibility, financial constraints, homelessness, climate, and long term developments
- GS: I believe how to revitalize the downtown core and make it work for business both big and small, safety of our pedestrians and accessibility for all which in due ties into sidewalk snow clearing are two of the most important issues I believe we face.
- LL: I feel sidewalk snow clearing is one of the biggest issues and the one that continues to come up year after year. Accessibility, mobility and safety during our long winters is a major issue and the key to the health and fitness of many and simply the practically of walking to from work for others. There is much room for improvement in this area. In addition to that, I feel City Hall can do more to facilitate small businesses. Small business (in Canada) employs 69.7% of all people working in the private sector. We must do all that we can do help facilitate and develop small businesses in our community. It means jobs and a vibrant downtown core.
- MH: There are too many to list here, but here goes: 1. Development that does not respect tradition and the needs of the community 2. Sidewalk snow clearing 3. Viability of the downtown 4. Ensuring our neighbourhoods are not overrun by short-term rentals 5. Privatization of public buildings and services 6. Affordable housing 7. Protecting our green spaces
- OR: After speaking with a diverse group of Ward 2 residents, I believe the single biggest issue in our Ward is inadequate freedom of mobility. Whether it’s caused by unplowed winter sidewalks, spotty public transit, inaccessible design, or inadequate infrastructure for active transportation, residents have told me over and over that they simply can’t access the Ward the way they need to. Between the serious social inequity this creates, and the looming environmental crisis that our reliance on cars will surely worsen, I believe we must radically improve mobility and accessibility in our Ward by prioritising the “nuts-and-bolts” issues that are presently blocking people from enjoying their city the way they should be. I’m equally concerned that increasing economic inequality is pushing people out of participation in our society – whether through unaffordable housing, regressive economic policies, or overly expensive transportation. By deploying progressive frameworks at the municipal level and keeping the needs of our most vulnerable in mind, we will make our Ward a better, safer, and more accessible place for everyone to live – and that should always be our key issue, and key goal.
- SS: On a general level the Budget is the big issue. Council has run a deficit and is contemplating a tax increase. I do NOT support a tax increase. We must find ways to reduce our expenditures and provide the critical services that residents of the City require. In terms of Ward 2, I have been approached about livable neighborhoods, development issues, noise issues and snow clearing, to name just a few. Providing the necessary services all citizens require in a cost effective way is what needs to be done. We need to focus on the fundamentals of water, sewer, garbage, fire and emergency services, roads, snow clearing and accessibility. These are the issues that have been brought to my attention by the residents of Ward 2 while I have been campaigning.
- WR: The key issues are the level of noise pollution created by overpowered cars and motorcycles, snow clearing in the downtown and the expansion of the Water Street Mall into a Pedestrian District including Duckworth Street.
What changes or initiatives would you advocate for if elected to Council?
- CF: Craft an economic response to the current issues with ability of taxpayers to pay, forming basis of all economic decisions. Pursue funding from federal govt regarding expenses associated with last winter’s storm. Eliminate the subsidy to Mile One. Develop 10 year plan for economic development which balances the need for development with environmental concerns.
- GN: Tax reduction, by-law reform, policy reform, accessibility, transit reform, and others
- GS: Advocate to have the Pedestrian Mall as long as economically viable for all business, look at the expansion of that into Duckworth street, have seasonal markets within it (ie – Christmas/Holiday, Spring/Easter and Fall Harvest) As a pedestrian myself and speaking for others, find ways to secure funds for sidewalk snow clearing without raising taxes. Public Transportation, have the start times earlier in the morning so our citizens can get to work timely, look at expansion with other municipalities in the metropolitan, increase frequency of routes and express routes and look to having downtown routes extended on Friday and Saturday evening to serve as an alternative way home.
- LL: I would like to see the initiatives the people St. John’s have already advocated for, put into practice. Through my many conversations and observations, that would mean the improved clearing of sidewalks in winter and the enhancement of the Pedestrian Mall in summer. I would push for the reallocation of funds, avail of any ‘wasted’ dollars and allocate them for sidewalk and staircase snow clearing. I would also like to further grow and facilitate the evolution of the Pedestrian Mall concept so that it aids downtown businesses on multiple streets and is accessible for all. In addition, I would like to see less red tape in many departments as in my experience many processes can be further streamlined.
- MH: First of all, I think we need to re-evaluate City Hall’s approach to development and public consultation. We need to protect historic sight lines and vistas by ensuring that new builds and renovations conform to the style and dimensions of existing or original structures. We should engage the public in the planning and design phase of large projects. Sidewalk snow clearing needs to be greatly improved; the city should invest in planning, equipment, and personnel so that sidewalks can be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall. We should scrap the Vacancy Allowance that gives commercial landlords a tax break on empty spaces. In this economy, we have to encourage occupancy. We should also tax and regulate Airbnb’s. The downtown needs our support. To that end, we should expand the pedestrian mall, develop Park and Ride Metrobus routes from surrounding areas, and add express routes between the Marine Institute, CNA, MUN, and downtown. It is also important that we do not privatize our public buildings and services. We should not sell Mile One, and we should eliminate the privatized “PaybyPhone” parking app that sends potential city revenue outside the country.
- OR: First and foremost, I will strongly advocate for significant improvements to winter sidewalk clearing. As a pedestrian, I’m frankly disgusted at the condition of our snowy sidewalks, and I know they have to change. I will equally advocate for renewed, or increased, attention to matters of accessibility and affordability, and would push hard for superior municipal efforts, and increased collaboration with the private sector, to make sure those concerns are properly addressed. I will apply progressive principles to policies like the vacancy allowance and SJSE operational grants, and ensure that City spending receives good progressive analysis. I will foreground environmental issues, and ensure Council champions “green” initiatives, to help protect our city and planet. Finally, I will ensure that the City explicitly prioritises the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, and that our governance – and budgeting – always works towards advancing goals of equity and justice.
- SS: No tax increase! A continuous review of how the City provides its services to see if we are doing that in the best way possible. Public consultation on this issue would be very helpful, in my opinion. Get people together to discuss how we do snow clearing, sidewalk clearing, garbage collection and other services to see if we can make improvements. Citizen engagement will lead to stronger decision making. Let’s ensure openness, transparency and accountability at City Hall!
- WR: I would be very interested in expanding the Water Street Mall into a Pedestrian District and strengthening the Heritage laws of the city.
If you had a whole day off to spend in your ward relaxing, what would you do?
- CF: I enjoy strolling through or driving around parts of Ward 2, taking in the sights and sounds and maybe have a lunch or ice-cream.
- GN: I would enjoy a walk in Victoria park and enjoy a beer or two at one of our local breweries!
- GS: I would wake up quite early and do the Signal Hill – North Head Trail, It is a place where I feel so grounded, connected to nature and alive! We are truly blessed to have that trail only 10 minutes from our downtown. I would then head over to Quidi Vidi Lake see the ducks and hopefully find some rare birds stopping by NL… (Yes, I’m a dorky birdwatcher) I would then head to the downtown for brunch maybe at one of my favourite spots, Bernard Stanley Gastropub or Zachary’s. Then read a book by the sea at Harbourside Park and then head to Ches’s for a cod bites with dressing and gravy. Then to Bannerman Park to lay in the sun and grab a jam jam gelato at The Parlour. Head home get changed and go downtown on the Pedestrian Mall for supper and then head to one of our great pubs for a pint or a gin and soda and to “shake my groove thing” (Post Covid obviously) That sounds like the most ideal day ever, not just in Ward 2 but anywhere!
- LL: Great question! I’d grab a coffee at one of the coffee shops on my way to hike Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi area as I have countless times, I never tire of it, (and we are so fortunate to have it on our doorstep). Stopping and chatting with people along the way of course which is certainly part of the allure of living in this small city. I’d then likely grab a sandwich at Caine’s and have a few laughs with the staff. Once finished, I’d grab a couple of hammocks from home, call a friend and head to Bannerman Park for a leisurely afternoon, take some sun and possibly throw a frisbee around. Once I’ve had enough sun, I’d head home, get freshened up and head downtown for dinner. I certainly don’t go ‘out’ as much as I used to but I still very much enjoy dining downtown and having a few cocktails with friends, running into others, etc. I have to stop here to make a comment. As well as I know this Ward, and as long as I’ve been living and working here, this one question alone has been an interesting exercise in making me realize what a wonderful area it is, what fantastic offerings it has to provide and in particular, how social and friendly it is. We are very fortunate.
- MH: I would put some books and snacks in my backpack and take the dog on a big adventure. First, we would walk through Georgetown en route to Bannerman Park to watch the birds (the dog is a setter and she needs her practice). After that, we would head down to Quidi Vidi (stopping to check in and lend support to the striking workers at Dominion!) to walk the lake. That would take us into the Gut and Cuckold’s Cove, where we would take the outer loop around to Cabot tower. We would sit on the rock wall and eat our snacks while we took in the view, and then continue down the trail to the Battery. We would probably stop somewhere for a coffee, and head to Harbourside Park to drink it, before gathering our strength for the walk home up Long’s Hill. Once we arrived at the house, the dog would have a well-deserved nap, and I would have a cold drink in the back yard. I might even read one of the books.
- OR: This one’s tough – there’s so much to do! My family and I dearly love spending time in Bannerman Park, so we’d probably spend some time there. Before covid hit, if my stepdaughter was with her dad, date nights often involved taking in shows from our awesome local burlesque, drag, and theatre communities, or romantic dinners in a nice local restaurant – we particularly like the Merchant. I like taking long walks in the area whenever I can, and you can often spot me roaming and listening to music – it’s just a gorgeous place to explore. If there’s a metal show happening at night, we’ll often try to make it out (if we don’t wind up in bed early!). Failing all that, I’ll be outside somewhere reading, playing a video game (I’m especially fond of Dead by Daylight), or cooped up at home with a glass of wine and a horror movie. As long as I’m with the people I love in the place we love, it’s bound to be a good time.
- SS: I often walk Harbour Drive and the downtown area. I also love the Quidi Vidi Lake area as well as Victoria Park. Walking the streets, meeting and chatting with people and taking in the sights and sounds of Ward 2 are what I like to do. This City has a vibe, a feel to it, and when you are out and about you get that feeling.
- WR: I would walk downtown and shop at some of our fine downtown local businesses. I’d have a cup of tea at the Rocket, a sandwich at Chinched, pick up some music at Fred’s Records and find a good comic at Downtown Comics. Then I’d go for a long walk in Bannerman Park and up the Rennies River trail. So much to do in Ward 2.
How do you think your ward will change over the next five years?
- CF: That is very much dependent on the economy. However, we need to continue to strive for a vibrant downtown and family friendly ward.
- GN: We’ll be facing a financial crunch and will have to reassess how we can offer services to the people. More development opportuntities (business and residential) will be presented and completed. Hopefully more greenspaces and accessible facilities will be offered for the people of the ward and nearby (such as the new mews centre)
- GS: Well here is what I’d like to see happen within the next 5 years! A downtown and Ward 2 that is home to diverse businesses of all sorts, a more pedestrian minded and accessible ward, a downtown with full office towers, a community minded ward (from community tree plantings, cleanups, street sales and block parties) community and neighbourhoods are the core of our humanity, fundamentally I want to see a ward that is bustling with opportunity, energy and life! Plus as a jazz and blues aficionado, I’d love to see a great revived “Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival”
- LL: I’ve seen much change in this Ward in the past 25 years, but I feel the biggest change in all that time was the introduction of the Pedestrian Mall. This new concept completely changed the way people perceive downtown, and frequent downtown. I watched it unfold daily before my very eyes. I believe that this new and exciting concept will be the catalyst that revitalizes downtown. It brings more people down here, it brings people down here more frequently, it brings all different demographics, young and old, families and pets, people from nearby and people from afar. These people spend money on goods and services, support small, locally owned businesses and while doing so, they are enjoying the heart and soul of their city. I firmly believe, that the downtown core of any city is it’s heartbeat and identity. Without it, the entire city suffers. For St. John’s to grow and flourish, it must protect and enhance it’s core so that more tourists and conventions want to come here to enjoy this unique, out of the way place. I think this Pedestrian Mall concept will grow and improve and will make our downtown core what it one was, the centre of activity in our city.
- MH: There will be: -more bike lanes and cycling paths (through the implementation of the Bike St. John’s Master Plan) -clear and safe sidewalks all winter long -a permanent downtown pedestrian mall -fewer vacant commercial spaces -garden beds, along with fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, in our parks -a downtown public library -a fully remediated Grace Hospital site
- OR: I could answer this simply and say that I see the ward becoming more diverse, more developed, and ever more vibrant, and that would be quite true. But as I see it, the next five years are a canvas for motivated people to shape – which is part of why I’m running. With our help, I see our ward becoming safer, more accessible, more walkable, and filled with awesome infill development that brings services and affordable housing closer to our city’s core. I picture a thriving, diverse group of residents walking safely in the winter to a growing number of small downtown businesses (maybe on a carless street!) whose development we’ve incentivised, or to well-maintained City amenities and events that draw on our beautiful cultural resources. Above all, more and more, I think our ward needs to become a place that everyone is free to enjoy regardless of their identity, their economic situation, or the challenges of their life. With your help, I’ll make that happen.
- SS: I expect development to be an issue in the future. We have lots of land available in the City and how that is used in the future will need to be considered by all. Re-purposing existing structures can be contentious and adding new structures can also change the street view and the view planes that people are used to in the Ward. As well, I hope we do not see a lot of closed up businesses or residential areas due to it costing too much to live and work in the City. We need to be conscious of the economy and its effects on our residents. Our City thrives and succeeds when we have strong neighborhoods and small business is the backbone of our neighborhoods. When I grew up in Ward 2 we had butcher shops, bakeries, grocery and confectionery stores, barbers, lounges, etc. That vibrancy of small business leads to vibrant, successful City’s’.
- WR: I hope to see the downtown become the attraction it sorely needs to be in this city. The Pedestrian District is just the start and we can add so much to attract more people and money to the city by polishing up the downtown and making it more friendly for small business and the arts.
How do you plan to reach potential voters given current COVID-19 concerns?
- GN: Social media, email, phone, flyers
- GS: As of now, I plan on continuing what our team has been doing. Flyer drops, social media, media interviews and when out canvassing if I see someone Ill stop them for a chat to share my plans and policy and hear their concerns and issues.
- LL: Given the Provincial government restrictions all candidates have been advised not to go door to door, because of this recommendation, I plan on utilizing social media, standard media, and email for engaging with voters. I will also use a mail out flyer to get my main initiatives out.
- MH: I plan on spending time in public areas, such as Bannerman Park, Victoria park, and Quidi Vidi Lake, meeting people and handing out pamphlets. I have a website (matthowseforward2.ca) with my platform and a Facebook page that keeps people up-to-date on the campaign. Additionally, I am encouraging residents to reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also some on-line forums in the works that I will take part in. People should keep an eye out for my pamphlets in their mailboxes, as well.
- OR: As the province has requested that we not go door-to-door given the COVID situation, I’ve tried to make myself as accessible as possible through other means. Social media has been a big help in sharing my ideas, and I’m always available to chat with any interested potential voter via Facebook or Twitter – or, for that matter, with a good old-fashioned phone call. I’ve also taken to stationing myself in common areas, like along Water Street, and posting that constituents are welcome to come and chat at their leisure, as well as making calls to the VOCM Open Line. Additionally, I’ve made sure to be present when we’re delivering window signs to anyone who requests them so that I can meet them personally and hear their ideas. As I’m trying to focus on concrete policy ideas, I’d finally invite voters to head over to http://voteophelia.ca to read my platform, and reach out however they like with any questions – I feel that its content speaks for itself!
- SS: When I declared my candidacy, I put out a statement that I would not go door to door due to Covid-19. We were also advised by the City to not go door to door. Out of respect for peoples health I believe we should not be on their doorsteps looking to talk to them. However, if people wish me to drop by to discuss an issue, I will visit them. As well, I have a FB page (Shawn Skinner – Ward 2) and a web page (shawnskinner.com) that people can use to connect with me and keep up to date on my campaign. My phone number (364-7051)is also in the phone book and I have left it in the phone book every time when I was elected. I am accessible to my constituents. Finally, I will do a flyer drop to people before the end of the campaign on October 20th. This flyer will outline some of my priorities if elected to Ward 2. Please read it and let me know what you think. If you support my vision of our City, you can use the flyer as a window poster. Put it in your window to show your support for my campaign.
- WR: I’m working through my Facebook page “Wallace Ryan for Ward 2” and producing weekly videos about subjects concerning the people of Ward 2. I also like to go for walks and chat safely with people on the streets…while wearing my mask.
Increasing density and mixed uses are priorities in the new municipal plan. Where would you like to see more density in your ward?
- GN: In the east and west ends of the ward to allow preserving historic areas as best possible.
- GS: Throughout the centre city and downtown! We need to eliminate the urban sprawl it has huge negative impacts on the environment. In addition people living closer to shops and services means that these businesses will have more consumers and resulting in a thriving downtown and centre city resulting in less of a need to drive, and an increase uptake in transit, cycling and walking.
- LL: There are many opportunities for further density in Ward 2. Some of which are infill building lots that are suitable for smaller, affordable homes, and empty buildings that can be converted into apartments with commercial use on the ground floor. Also, many properties which once had small stores (but now gone) would not be eligible for new business because current zoning would call them non-conforming. Current zoning policy is too broadly restrictive for mixed uses which is what makes suburbia bleak and is also threatening the same for downtown neighborhoods. This idea of a policy is more applicable to residential neighbourhoods than Water Street businesses. But aren’t the neighbourhoods the heart and soul of downtown? Water and Duckworth Streets are the pulse but what would it be like if it was just surrounded by a subdivision? People need life and vibrancy in their neighbourhoods.
- MH: In the downtown. First of all, I would like to see fewer vacant homes in the area. This is a multi-faceted issue that requires multi-faceted solutions, but we can start by imposing limits on the number of residential rental permits we give individuals and property management companies. The cost of housing in this City is out of reach for many residents because prices are kept artificially high by those who hoard property and insist on those prices. It’s fine if someone wants to own 100 houses, but maybe they should only be allowed to rent out 75 of them. Also, I don’t think we need to construct large new buildings in the name of “density”; the bigger emphasis should be on getting people back to the downtown, and making sure it is not overrun with Airbnb’s. We have to put the community first. In that vein, I think we need to work hard to sprinkle cafes, restaurants, and retail businesses throughout Ward 2 by increasing the number of mixed-use commercial/residential occupancy permits. People build community, and it’s hard to build community when you always have to leave your neighbourhood to grab a coffee, shop, or eat out.
- OR: In terms of new buildings, I’m always willing to consider sensible new developments in the downtown core and immediate surrounding areas, but I’m especially enthusiastic about developments that provide either essential services or affordable homes. While I’m open to hearing all proposals, I have pause when developments take away significant areas of greenspace, so I’d like to see increased density primarily in areas where that won’t happen. Additionally, I feel a reduction in vacancies is a great way to address the need for increased density, and my planned changes to the vacancy allowance will be a strong incentive to make that happen.
- SS: I believe we have an opportunity to allow for “tiny” home development in some areas where it will fit. People want smaller homes due to less construction and maintenance cost as well as smaller family sizes. Lets be innovative and creative in how we grow our City and be welcoming to all who want to live here. As well, small home based businesses will be the engine of the economy. Lets create a regulatory environment that allows for this but respects the character of the neighbourhood. If nothing else, Snowmageddon and Covid-19 have shown us people need to work from home and can do it safely, effectively and without disrupting their neighborhoods. Lets expand on that situation and create more opportunities for home based businesses.
- WR: I think we need less density in the downtown area. We need to open it up and spread out and make it accessible for all and not just condos that lie empty.
What is your favourite example of built heritage in Ward 2?
- GN: Various gothic/gothic revival buildings
- GS: Cochrane Street United Church, I believe it is the model on how churches and heritage buildings can re-imagine their potential. The building is used as the “Centre for Performance & Creativity” for First Light Friendship Centre. It is still used as a United Church as well with services on Sunday. I’ve been to concerts their and on top of the gorgeous stained glass, the acoustics are amazing!!! Plus the building gives very Mediterranean vibes so I love it!
- LL: The Murray Premises, The Yellow Belly, and the building that houses Raymond’s Restaurant all come to mind, but if I had to have a favourite it would be The Parlour at 85 Military Road that provides a living and working scenario for a young family while adding to the vibrancy of the neighbourhood. These are the types of initiatives that facilitate small businesses, provide destinations for residents and help beautify the city while providing the goal of mixed use properties.
- MH: Oh, wow…this is a tough one. I’m going to have to go with the Mallard Cottage. It is probably the oldest house in the metro area, and I had a chance to visit it between the antique shop and restaurant phases with my Vernacular Architecture class (I was doing my Folklore M.A. at the time). We spent a few hours looking around at the hand-hewn beams, the vertical timber walls, and the beautiful tiny staircase. They have done such a good job maintaining the character of the building and highlighting the little nuances of the original construction process. It’s an example of modern heritage preservation done right, and we need more of that kind of work in St. John’s.
- OR: If I have to make one single choice, certainly the Basilica and all its associated buildings – although I went to St. Bon’s, I’m not even Catholic, and I’m still in awe of them! I’m also enamored with buildings like the Murray Premises, which I see as an excellent example of redevelopment done right.
- SS: There are many examples of wonderful built heritage in Ward 2. Walk along LeMarchant or Circular Road and look at some of the stately homes there now. Look at the great work Nolan Hall Architects did with the Benevolent Irish Society (BIS) building on Queens Road, the work done by Brenda O’Reilly and Craig Flynn on Yellow Belly Brewery, the redevelopment and re-purposing of the East End Fire Hall into Bannerman Brewery and on and on it goes. All re-purposed to save our heritage and use it in other ways than originally intended. The Ecclesiastical District has magnificent heritage with the Basilica, the Kirk, the Anglican Cathedral and Gower Street United Church. If I have to pick a favourite, it would be the BIS building.
- WR: The Anna Templeton Center.
What single policy do you think the city should implement related to our heritage preservation?
- GN: Historic tree/greenspace preservation
- GS: Design Standards, for example The Battery, Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi areas of this city are seen on postcards, online articles and magazines throughout the world! I personally believe new developments need to look like they fit the mold and the historical significance of the area they are in.
- LL: A policy that provides broader opportunities for thoughtful use of our built heritage. Rethinking ways in which to use our historic fabric is critical in making that fabric a civic asset relevant to today. Our built heritage can become much more than something simply pleasing to the eye. With more dynamic uses, it can become a means to invigorate neighbourhoods, enhance daily life and thereby further enhance its own significance. There needs to be a greater ability to add new uses or even reinstate previous ones which serve to enrich a property and its neighbourhood. By this, the value of heritage preservation grows. There are some means in place for certain, select building types to alter use but these means are constraining and restrictive. A new policy which allows and encourages more mixed use opportunity within heritage areas would keep our historic fabric useful, relevant, and valued aiding in its own preservation. We must open up opportunities for development that would enhance neighbourhood living.
- MH: We should stop granting exemptions allowing for the demolition and uncharacteristic redevelopment of our heritage buildings and neighbourhoods. St. John’s has some of the best heritage preservation by-laws in the country; we just have to follow them.
- SS: We must do what we can to ensure it is saved and not lost forever. The policy change would be in how we look at our heritage and its value to our City. It is irreplaceable and must be saved if at all possible. The City must become actively engaged in working to keep what we currently have and not lose it as we did with Bryn Mawr Cottage very recently. Built heritage is an economic driver and an asset to the City.
- OR: Although it might prove controversial, I think balancing development and heritage interests inherently requires lessening money’s influence on council’s decisions. That’s why the upcoming election finance changes, which bar corporate donations to councillors’ campaigns, are actually the single policy I’d advocate for the most strongly – and as I outline in my platform, I’d expand those changes to require total donor disclosure, so residents know exactly who’s influencing their officials. When money isn’t talking over the needs and concerns of residents, their voices will sound louder and clearer – and our leaders will have to listen. I’d also ensure that those residents, and community stakeholders, have their voices elevated through their constant consultation in developing, and maintaining, strategies for heritage preservation.
- WR: We need to expand and strengthen the Heritage laws and not hand out exemptions to buildings unsuitable for the downtown core.
How will you balance development pressures against the need to preserve heritage in Ward 2?
- GN: Working with stakeholders and policy to protect all aspects of heritage (buildings, roads, paths, alleys, greenspaces, and more)
- GS: I believe that St. John’s can do both! We must look to our Atlantic friends in Halifax, NS they do an exceptional on being a city of the 21st century while having maintained and gorgeous historical buildings.
- LL: This is clearly a situation of earlier engagement between developers and the Heritage Committee. Too often do proposals get presented to City Hall (and residents) at an advanced stage of design. We must open the conversation earlier to find a means of accommodating developments while preserving heritage. This is the key to understanding the parameters that would help facilitate developers while appeasing heritage concerns.
- MH: For me, the preservation of heritage out-weighs “development pressures” every time. For years St. John’s has positioned itself as a hub for tourism, history, and culture. People don’t come here for high-rise hotels that block everyone’s view of the harbour. There are examples of cities all over the world where modern development has taken place concurrent with heritage preservation. We should model our approach after the likes of Stockholm, Helsinki, and Prague If we need more hotels and large-scale housing developments in the City (I’m not convinced that the market says we do), those structures should be built outside of heritage areas so they do not block our historic sightlines. Well-planned, well-funded transit and cycling routes will then ensure every corner of St. John’s is accessible for everyone.
- OR: I’ve studied both history and folklore, so I hope this answer comes across well-informed! Like anyone, I understand that new development is critical to keeping our city thriving, but some of the designs I’ve seen approved have really given me pause – I simply don’t think some of them were in the right direction for us. While I’m not a fan of “faux heritage” design, I believe new developments must at least try to suit the visual character of their neighbourhoods better than we sometimes see, and I’ll critique any proposals that don’t. I also believe we need to take issues of space and place into account more holistically in evaluating new developments – meaning I would advocate for development that doesn’t fracture community senses of space, cut off sightlines to our harbour, or ruin treasured greenspace. Heritage isn’t simply visual; it’s our sense of community, and our knowledge of our place. If developments can sustain those things, and slot in nicely with their visual surroundings, they’ll get good ratings from me.
- SS: We must work with the development community to ensure they are able to create economic value for themselves while keeping our heritage intact. It is not a black and white issue, there are many shades of grey. The City must be able to balance the investment costs and economic returns of the developer with the need to see our heritage survive. It is what makes us unique and will be a valuable tourist attraction for many years to come. Our heritage will bring NEW money to our City and we need to recognize this as much as we do the need for new business.
- WR: The downtown is currently over-developed and too many failed condo projects are marring the downtown landscape. I think we need to designate some uptown areas for development that includes large office buildings. We need a Second Downtown District and it should be up on Kenmount Road which has better infrastructure to handle the pressure of development.
The increased costs from tackling snowmageddon and COVID coming on top of an already difficult economic climate mean there will be pressure on the city’s finances. How should the city respond?
- GN: Reducing red tape and barriers to entry for small businesses to allow for a return to “normal” and to create jobs and a tax base for the city
- GS: Firstly, Make sure there are no tax increases! Many of our citizens are barely getting by and we need to support them not hinder them! St. John’s might be facing an approximate $18,000,000 deficit in 2020 but as a city we posted a nearly $14,000,000 surplus in 2019, in total surplus reserves we have just over $22,000,000 that we could tap into if needed. We also need to press the Federal Government for disaster relief funding they had promised for Snowmageddon, also I’m very keen on the potential sale of Mile One Centre which after the sale we need ensure the $3,000,000 subsidy to St. John’s Sport & Entertainment is eliminated. I think these are some ways to combat the economic struggle we are in without additionally taxing our residents!
- LL: We must cut the ‘proverbial fat’, and NOT raise taxes. Right now is the time to review all city expenditures, line by line and reduce unnecessary costs. Mile One Centre is just one example of millions of dollars being spent annually that needs correcting. Furthermore, our Convention Centre is also under-utilized. This is a brand new facility that is currently not drawing in the revenue it could. We must be more frugal, more creative, make better businesslike decisions and allocate funds more wisely.
- MH: It is important that the pandemic is not used as an excuse to slash budgets, privatize public infrastructure, and erode the quality of services we have in St. John’s. There are lots of ways to produce more revenue for the City. These include: 1) eliminating the Vacancy Allowance that give commercial landlords tax breaks on empty spaces. 2) collecting business tax from Airbnb operators. Rates will be pegged to the appraised value of the properties in question and be collected at the same time as property tax. The annual tax would range from $500 per unit to $3,000 per unit. 3) scrapping the privatized “PaybyPhone” parking app that is owned by Volkswagon Financial Services, so the revenue stays local. We need a long-term solution for parking fees across the City, but particularly in Ward 2. That solution has to be publicly owned and operated.
- OR: I think it’s important to recognise that the economic difficulties the City is facing are, of course, universal to some extent – and that this isn’t the time to make things harder for vulnerable residents whose finances are suffering even more. I believe the key element of our response should be a firm prioritising of those services, like proper snow clearing and public transit improvements, that will make life easier and cheaper for people who need that help the most. Like anyone, I’ve been hearing officials say that we could be looking at tax increases in the future, which I’ll work to avoid whenever possible; I believe ideas like progressive reductions to the vacancy allowance, and investigating reducing our grants to SJSE, are key places to start in gathering new revenue. But if taxes must go up at any point, I’ll make sure they’re tied to those essential services that make life possible for our most vulnerable. If we’re to pay in to our City, it should always use our money to deliver proper services for us so we don’t need to fill in those gaps ourselves.
- SS: The City should be reviewing all expenditures for the upcoming budget. We should NOT increase taxes. We should only spend that which is critical to the operation of our City. We have an “emergency fund” that we may need to draw some money from to help balance the budget. Expenditure reduction in all that we do should be our focus. We must live within our means. Given the effect that Snowmageddon and Covid-19 have had on businesses in the City, I do not think we can implement higher taxes. Now is not the time for a tax increase.
- WR: We need to examine our spending and see what cuts can be made while expanding more important services like snow-clearing.
Ward 2 is the home to a number of community agencies, neighbourhood associations and tenant associations. What would you do to support these groups and to bring their work into meaningful alignment with City efforts, such as transparency, consultation, and good development and redevelopment?
- GN: Create an office of diversity and inclusion to allow greater collaboration between these agencies/groups
- GS: I think collaboration is the best way, round tables and meetings. Make sure we are all on the same page. If it means new community gardens for one area lets do that across the board. If it’s an issue in a certain neighbourhood being addressed (ie – litter or pests) let’s not wait to hear from other neighbourhoods and address the whole issue. Work with all parties involved, hear their concerns and go from there.
- LL: Listen, and act! I’m currently the member of a neighbour association and we have been lobbying the city for years. We all feel as though we been heard, but no action has resulted. As a Councillor, just as a small business person, I would assess the situation, look for solutions and act on them. There is often too much apathy at City Hall and the only way to move forward is through ACTION.
- MH: We have to ensure that these agencies and associations are involved in policy development and decision-making processes every step up the way. Anything less is inefficient and runs the risk of producing negative outcomes for the community. Public consultation has to be done in good faith in the planning and development phases, not just the approval phase. This is an important part of democracy at the municipal level.
- OR: I’ve worked extensively with community-focused groups like the Safe Harbour Outreach Project, so I know how important they are to our city’s successful functioning. From an infrastructural perspective, I’d like to promote, and better enable, the use of City facilities like meeting rooms for these groups’ operations. On a personal level, I’ll do everything I can to enable dialogue and collaboration with those groups, and will always take their recommendations and critiques seriously. This would include, at a minimum, requiring more and better in-person public consultation on new developments, and enabling frameworks like the “Living in Community” framework that we’ve successfully implemented to facilitate progressive dialogue around sex work.
- SS: The City is currently doing some good work in this area. Our recreation outreach to the community centres, our work with End Homelessness St. John’s, the Youth Advisory Committee of Council, the Mayors Advisory Council on Seniors, are all great examples of how the City tries to engage and support community based groups.This Council has made great strides on engagement and consultation and I hope to continue that work.
- WR: We need a much more transparent public consultation process. Currently, public “consultation” meetings seem more aimed at approving the projects concerned rather than examining the negative impacts overdevelopment is having on the downtown.
In your opinion, what is the best decision the St. John’s City Council has made, and why?
- GN: To put away a rainy day fund for moments of emergency instead of giving it away, this has ensured no layoffs and a very light deficit compared to other cities nationally.
- GS: The Pedestrian Mall, It was a revival of the downtown core! It brought so many people to local businesses and helped show the importance of a city focused on pedestrian culture as opposed to car culture and the health and economic benefits to that.
- LL: I feel the introduction of the Downtown Pedestrian Mall has been the best decision Council has made in recent times. It was a complete game-changer for both residents and businesses. Downtown St. John’s has been suffering in recent years as several larger businesses have moved uptown and this really reduced the pedestrian traffic in the area. This concept is exciting and different, it gave residents a place to go, gather safely (in a pandemic situation) and it also spurred a lot of economic activity in the area that was desperately needed. It’s a clear winner and right now is a pivotal point in time whereby we need to grow and evolve this concept to continue to bring residents and tourists to downtown St. John’s.
- MH: Approving the downtown pedestrian mall.
- OR: The good ones are myriad! I’m a supporter of harm-reduction principles, so I feel the widespread distribution of sharps disposal containers was an excellent piece of policy. The pedestrian mall was a great decision wisely made after extensive public advocacy. Every single motion to improve sidewalk snow-clearing that I’ve seen in my 13 years here was a good decision, though of course, none of them were adequate.
- SS: Having a by-election for Ward 2. It ensures the residents of Ward 2 continue to have the representation they deserve until the next municipal election in 2021. It gives the residents a representative at the Council table when decisions are being made that affect their future. They deserve no less.
- WR: The Heritage Area. But it needs to be expanded and strengthened. We need less exemptions, especially when it comes to newer buildings.
In your opinion, what is the worst decision the St. John’s City Council has made, and why?
- GN: Building various mega projects such as Mile One as they are dependent on private industry to be successful and are very costly and have low return on investment.
- GS: The Rawlins Cross traffic round-about was one of the worst decisions seen recently. The introduction of this pilot project and study without taking into account the impact on pedestrians and accessibility was a key example of why an accessibility committee should exist for reviewing plans, so feedback can be provided ahead of time rather than always trying to be reactive after it is implemented.
- LL: In recent years municipal taxes have crept up and really put a burden on many residents and businesses. This cannot continue to happen and I will push to see taxes do not increase in coming years. We must reallocate funds to better serve residents. Coming from a small business background, I would be far more frugal with tax dollars!
- MH: Regularly granting exemptions to developers who do not wish to adhere to municipal regulations and by-laws.
- OR: This year’s decision not to expand sidewalk snow-clearing was a catastrophic mistake, and easily the worst decision I’ve seen council make in my time here. It simply steamrollered the very valid concerns raised by many vulnerable groups, and it ensures a really bad winter ahead for everyone. I also have serious concerns about Council’s inaction on urban sprawl, and on the destruction of greenspace – or approval of communities being built without any.
- SS: I do not have any particular decision that I would classify as Council’s worst.
- WR: Not to tackle the issue of noisy vehicles in the downtown which is hurting the businesses throughout the area.
Please rank the level of attention you think Council should pay to each of these transportation modes in the coming term (1 = most important, 5 = least.)
- GN: 1) Public transportation, 2) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 3) Cycling/rollerskating, 4) Walking/running, 5) Driving
- GS: 1) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 2) Public transportation, 3) Walking/running, 4) Cycling/rollerskating, 5) Driving
- LL: 1) Walking/running, 2) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 3) Public transportation, 4) Cycling/rollerskating, 5) Driving
- MH: 1) Cycling/rollerskating, 2) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 3) Public transportation, 4) Walking/running, 5) Driving
- OR: 1) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 2) Walking/running, 3) Public transportation, 4) Cycling/rollerskating, 5) Driving
- SS: 1) Public transportation, 2) Driving, 3) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 4) Walking/running, 5) Cycling/rollerskating
- WR: 1) Walking/running, 2) Wheelchair and other alternate mobilities, 3) Cycling/rollerskating, 4) Public transportation, 5) Driving
What should the City Council do to make St. John’s a healthier place to live?
- GN: More planning for future developments to ensure an accessible city year round, we need to be forward thinking not reactive!
- GS: Make St. John’s more accessible for everyone is #1 I think making this a place that values and incentives, pedestrians, cyclists, runners, roller-skaters, etc… Whether it is better traffic calming, lighting, pedestrian mall extensions, audible crossing signals, yellow edged stairs and clear sidewalks & lane-ways all year round. These are some ways to make it easier to get around and we will see more people out and about as oppose to driving to destinations. Increased green spaces, upgrades at parks, playgrounds and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, access to fresh food with partnerships with other levels of government to see more community gardens in neighbourhoods and vacant green spaces also fruit trees in our parks like what is happening on Tessier place. These are some of the ways to make this a healthier city!
- LL: I think one of the biggest things is to promote walking and cycling as a modes of transport. This one improvement alone has many benefits; better health from living a more active lifestyle; improved air quality from lower emissions; and in turn helps solve parking issues. I’d also like to see some simple additions to several parks to help promote calisthenics (adult playground equipment). This is very popular in many urban areas, provides great park activity and is very inexpensive to install.
- MH: 1) Bring the level of cycling infrastructure up to that of the Grand Concourse. In the Grand Concourse we have one of the best urban trail systems in the country, and a high quality bike path network would go a long way to help people be more fit and active. It is important that we do not pave over any of the Grand Concourse, because hard surfaces have negative health effects on runners and walkers. 2) Ensure that sidewalks are clear of snow and ice within 24 hours of a storm. This will require lots of planning and co-ordination, but over 50% of respondents in a recent survey said they go outside less during the winter months due to poor walking conditions. This is unacceptable in a capital city in the 21st century. Pedestrians have to feel safe and valued throughout the year.
- OR: The single most important decision we can make to promote good health is the championing of active transportation. We know that getting people away from using cars can have massive, across-the-board benefits – environmentally, economically, and in terms of health. Properly clearing our sidewalks, converting trails to mixed-use designation (including paving), constructing more bike lanes, and removing obstructions to accessibility are simple and necessary measures that will save us a lot of money in the long run and improve our health, and our planet’s health, all the same. Adequate services like these, too, keep money in residents’ pockets by reducing their reliance on expensive transit modes like cars and cabs – which, among other things, will strip cost barriers to local, healthy food. Incentivizing the development of home gardens, farms, and local enterprises like the Farmer’s Market equally keeps us more food secure, and when we’re able to access better-quality local food without barriers, everyone – and our planet – will surely be healthier.
- SS: Encourage the use of public transportation. Promote its outdoor spaces and recreational facilities more. Create reasons for people to want to get out and move about (pedestrian mall, clear sidewalks in winter, host events that promote healthier lifestyles).
- WR: Offer more things like the Pedestrian Mall to get people out and walking.
What changes need to happen to have more diversity in age, gender, race, and life experience on Council?
- GN: More forward thinking policies to allow everyone an equitable opportunity to serve, such as allowing babies in meetings, attending via zoom meetings, using translators where applicable and other equitable practices
- GS: I think a diversity and inclusion committee with members of the city council, industry, community, local organizations could play a role. Also a 2SLGBTQIA+ person I think its amazing we have 2 people on the ballot for Ward 2 from this community! I believe visibility in this campaign will carry over into other political races within our city and province!
- LL: Homogenous Councils threaten the legitimacy of Council decisions. I want the entire population of Ward 2 to be represented fairly, and this involves representation on Council. One approach would be to pass the Campaign Finance Reform giving room to a broader pool of candidates.
- MH: There are a long list of systemic and structural issues in our society that prevent people with particular backgrounds from participating meaningfully in public life. If we are serious about equality and inclusivity we must be willing to have difficult conversations about class, poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, and patriarchy in St. John’s and the world. Any advancements will have to involve commitments from the provincial and federal governments to examine the root(s) of these issues, and a willingness to identify and address our societal failures and shortcomings. There are no easy fixes.
- OR: I was inspired by the wealth of diverse experiences represented in our 2017 election – I don’t think I’d have felt comfortable running without that. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to create a Council that feels truly equitable. As I’ve said elsewhere here, improving essential services is a leveller that will remove considerable barriers to municipal participation, but it will also improve the sense that government is truly representative, and possibly motivate people with different life experiences to see Council as a place where their concerns belong. Upcoming changes to campaign finances will also take a lot of the money out of elections, which keeps participation accessible to everyone. Finally, Council, as all concerned citizens, should consciously amplify the voices of BIPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+, sex workers, and all marginalised activists and community members, and engage in active anti-oppression work whenever it’s needed. We need significant cultural changes to break out of the oppressive narratives that hold specific kinds of privilege as precursors to a life in politics. That’s not just Council, it’s culture – and it’s something we all need to work together to fix.
- SS: The voter needs to be engaged more in municipal government. If people understand what effects municipal government has on everyday life in the City, they maybe more inclined to get involved. More outreach by Council on public issues, more promotion of openness and accountability related to Council decision making. An electoral framework that makes it easy for people to get involved and meaningfully compete for positions on Council.
- WR: Term limits. We need to limit council seats to three consecutive terms for any single seat.
How do you feel about the campaign finance reforms that will be enforced next year? Will you abide by the new guidelines voluntarily?
- GN: This is a great thing for transparency and yes I will.
- GS: I think they make elections more accessible for people to run in them. I will be following the rules currently in place for this campaign!
- LL: I take no issue with the changes and support transparency.
- MH: I am in favour of the reforms. Transparency is important in a democratic society, so lowering the contribution threshold for naming donors is a good idea. Likewise, money and resources are often deciding factors in elections, so limiting corporate and union donations to 50% of total expenditures (2021) and getting rid of them entirely (2025) should go a long way in leveling the playing field and making municipal politics more accessible for more people. For this campaign, I will be following the current rules, so as not to place myself at a disadvantage.
- OR: I’m delighted with the campaign finance reforms, and am fully abiding by them in this election. I have publicly stated that I will reject all corporate and union donations, and will work with the lower spending limits that will come into force next year. However, I’m going a step further in disclosing the names of all donors on my Web page, no matter how much they give, so voters can truly see who’s backing me. That kind of information is vital, and I believe it should be a requirement in future elections, so special interests can’t mask their money behind lots of undisclosed small donations. Rules like these keep elections fair and accessible to everyone, and they ensure that money doesn’t talk louder than the voices of our residents.
- SS: I am generally OK with the new approach to election reform and look forward to the lowering of the total amounts that can be spent on the various council positions.
- WR: Anything that brings more people into politics and takes money out of the equation is the way to go.
From January – October 2021, there will be 10 sitting members of City Council, leaving room for tied votes. With this in mind, how will you work collaboratively with fellow council members to reach an agreement on behalf of residents?
- GN: I will listen with others and concede points where necessary to meet the needs of the city, ask the right questions to ensure accountability, and say no when requires for my constituents
- GS: I think common ground is paramount! If there is a proposal or idea that is quite divided, that looks like it might not get passed I would work collaboratively with other council members to ensure that we can get a majority on a side. It allows good ideas to not get completely thrown to the curb. A little bit forward is better than nothing at all!
- LL: The residents of St. John’s are the most important part of any decision made by Council. Councillors need to realize this and put any bias’ aside to work together in reaching the best possible decisions to aid residents and businesses alike.
- MH: When I was 19 years old, I did the Katimavik program–9 months of volunteering 35 hours a week in three different provinces, and sharing a house with 11 other young people (aged 17 to 21) from all across Canada. It was a diverse group–there were three different first languages, five nationalities, and three religions represented–and all of our decisions were consensus-based. If I could participate in that household, I can certainly work on a 10-member city council. Katimavik prepared me well for it.
- OR: I’m not a tough person to get along with, and I’m proud of my ability to collaborate even with people I disagree with. My campaign’s received help from folks across the political spectrum, so although I’m a principled progressive, I hope that shows that I don’t struggle to work with anyone! That’s possible because my approach is always the same – centering the voices of those people with lived experience, especially marginalised people, and trying to advance causes of equity. I think sometimes important decisions get mired in goals and frameworks outside that, and it’s important that we don’t lose sight of who we’re really fighting for here. As long as my colleagues are willing to work towards those goals – and I’m sure they will be – collaboration will be a snap. More than anything, though, the constituents of Ward 2 will have a champion in me when they need one, and I won’t be afraid to fight hard to get them the fair treatment they deserve.
- SS: My previous experience on Council will help in this area. Consensus serves the City better than division and I expect all Councillors would vote for the betterment of the City and not allow personal or local issues to tie up the work of Council. Constructive debate and various points of view lead to better decision making.
- WR: I will discuss all issues with all members and with the heads of all departments at City Hall to get things done. I’m a people person and would use those skills to get things done.
How will you ensure that marginalized members of the community are supported and heard by city council?
- GN: By creating an office of diversity and inclusion to assess and address the needs of all residents regardless of backgrounds
- GS: I promise to be a voice for all people of this ward and city! As previously mentioned, I think the addition of a inclusion and diversity committee, and also an accessibility committee with people represented from these communities would be a great step in the right direction! A society that moves forward, never leaves anyone behind!
- LL: Simply by listening! Every member of our community has a voice that needs to be heard. One solution could be to follow in the footsteps of Mississauga with the creation of a “Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee” which provides advice to Council on “ethno-cultural relations and diversity matters”.
- MH: I am wholly committed to meaningful public engagement with all community members. I will work with and reach out to organizations and individuals that represent marginalized communities and use their knowledge and experiences to inform my decisions and perspectives.
- OR: Making sure Council listens to the voices, and needs, of marginalised people is my #1 goal on Council – as it is in everything I do. As an intersectionally marginalised person, I know how frustrating it can be when it feels like government isn’t listening, and I promise to change that. I’m experienced in applying anti-oppression lenses to policies and decisions, so I’ll continue to do so on Council. I have also established strong relationships with many community groups, especially ones with feminist foci, and will happily draw on those connections as well as forming new ones. I’ll also center the work of internal groups like the Inclusion Advisory Committee and ensure their recommendations are followed. Most of all, I promise to serve as a point of contact for any marginalized residents who need help. Our decisions should foreground the voices and experiences of our vulnerable citizens, and I will always be there to listen when those folks come forward to tell me their needs and wants. Whether they’re sex workers, BIPOC people, 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, persons with disabilities, or anyone else who truly needs our help, I will always listen and always put their voices, and needs, first.
- SS: My volunteer work for the past 30+ years has been involved with marginalized people and groups in the City. I have a good relationship with many of these people and groups and I expect they will continue to contact me to assist them with their issues. As well, my previous involvement with them will help me know what issues and concerns are currently of importance to them.
- WR: By actually listening to them and not just saying what I think they want to hear.
Finally, is there any concrete policy position or issue we have not covered you would like to share?
- GN: Curbside compost is an opportunity to create a greener and healthier city. I’m advocating that we finish the recycling project we started years ago so that the health and wellbeing of all our residents is first for years to come!
- GS: I think this city has a huge issue with litter and garbage, I was the first candidate to propose additional garbage and recycling bins throughout the city especially in major pedestrian arteries and residential areas, I’d also like to see them at all Metrobus shelters!
- LL: St. John’s is an incredibly unique city with a diversity of streets and neighbourhoods, many extremely different than others. In my experience, and in speaking with others, particularly builders, developers, architects, and investors, I feel City Hall and the Planning and Development Department need to take on a more can-do approach and review antiquated by-laws that contradict the current Municipal Plan. As time passes, things are changing more and more rapidly and we can do better in keeping policies current, workable and facilitating.
- OR: I believe I’ve gotten to say it all, and welcome voters to check out my Web page, http://voteophelia.ca, where they can see my positions on many other issues I haven’t touched here. My thanks for your time and your consideration!
- WR: I would love to see an expansion of the Water Street Mall into a full blown “Pedestrian District” of downtown to include Duckworth and George Street. We need streets that serve not only the youth market but also attracts families and the elderly. We need to bring more art events and entertainment to the streets and make the downtown a place to visit rather than avoid because of loud vehicles and closing shops.
SS: None, thank you.