Cynthia Block

Q1 Food: Food is one of our most fundamental basic needs, but not everyone in Saskatoon has access to fresh, affordable food. The Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership’s 12 Bold Ideas to Eliminate Poverty states that making food more affordable includes a combination of reducing food costs, ensuring people have more income to buy food, and ensuring everyone has access to healthy food choices. Building food assets (e.g., emergency food assistance, meal programs, gardening and farming, grocery markets/stores, community supports and education programs) in every Saskatoon neighbourhood would improve access to healthy food, reduce social isolation, drive local economic development, and address food insecurity. What initiatives and policy options will you champion or support to ensure every neighbourhood in Saskatoon has access to healthy and affordable food?

I will continue to champion a grocery store in the downtown. Mirco grocery stores are good for some folks, but an affordable chain is needed to support the downtown community. New ideas are emerging to support the short and long term approach as we build density in the downtown that would support a grocery store.

I support the local community garden program, of which there are many in Ward 6. It is a good way to build food security and community.

In 2021, Council will have the opportunity to consider gardening containers on city boulevards.

It is important to me that everyone has a safe, affordable means to access nutritious food. If there are more ways the city can support that, I am interested to learn more.

Q2 Arts and Culture: A new central library is an investment that will benefit all members of the Saskatoon community for years to come. The new central library build will generate jobs and economic growth.  This will be especially important as we recover from the financial fallout of COVID-19. The total project budget has not changed since it was approved and is $134 million.   Since 2009 there have been scheduled incremental increases to the library levy to build the capital reserves for the project. Future increases are scheduled to be $645,000 in the years 2021-2024; and $200,000 in 2025 and 2026. The average homeowner will see increases of less than $5 per year in 2021-2024, and less than $1.60 per year in 2025 and 2026. This schedule fully funds the new central library project, including debt repayment and increases to operating costs once the library is open, which means there are no additional increases related to the new central library project beyond 2026. Do you support the building of a library for downtown Saskatoon, as committed to the current City Council?

A new central library is important for equity and inclusion, which are foundational to our library system. I also believe the library is a pivotal piece of the puzzle to drive residential density, visitors and economic growth. Cities and experts from across North America have championed modern libraries as a significant vehicle to drive people and businesses to the core, where infrastructure, maintenance and other civic services already exist. This will lower the property tax load and keep our city thriving. Saskatoon’s central library plans include other amenities that have been identified as critical to driving residential growth, including green space, a fully accessible playground, winter animation and indigenous place making. The average household will pay less than $23 to be fully funded for the capital and operations of the new central library.

Q3 Arts and Culture: Our built and natural environments provide a framework for our urban living. Our buildings and spaces contribute to a unique sense of place and help tell the story of Saskatoon. Our heritage buildings and structures remind us of our history and provide much richness to our surroundings. They are appreciated by residents and play an important role in attracting visitors to our city. If elected, will you champion support for our built heritage?

I have always been a champion of our built heritage, and will continue to actively seek ways to support it. There is no other city like ours, and the beauty of any city lies in its ability to link the stories of its past to the present. We need to find more and better ways to identify, protect and preserve the visible evidence of our collective past – and also, the stories themselves. A good example will be the plaques that are soon going up in the pedestrian walkway of the Traffic Bridge. Adding the viewpoint of our first peoples to the understanding of our city’s founding, has the opportunity to enrich all who live in, and visit Saskatoon. I currently sit on the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, and I look forward to finding more ways to tell the stories of our city through its built form and its people – past and present.

Q4 Food: Food sovereignty is defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” Indigenous food sovereignty refers to a specific policy approach to addressing the underlying issues impacting Indigenous peoples and their ability to respond to their own needs for healthy, culturally adapted Indigenous foods. How can the City of Saskatoon contribute to Indigenous food sovereignty?

I am interested to learn more about this.

Q5 Urban Planning: One of the goals of Saskatoon’s Strategic Plan (2013-2023) is “Sustainable Growth.” This includes planning for a healthy balance of greenfield and infill development – to grow the city inward and upward as well as outward. Responsible and strategic neighborhood infill would include consulting with the vulnerable populations affected, protecting existing affordable housing and heritage sites, and taking steps to limit sprawl and disparity in living conditions in new neighborhood developments. Do you support providing affordable housing to people living in core neighborhoods to minimize the social and economic displacement that could result from significant increases in infill development?

Over the course of the last four years, I have had the opportunity to learn from other cities, as well as local, national and international experts about how to grow the heart of a city. Social housing is foundational to the plan, and needs to be incorporated into our downtown strategy. By addressing this now, we have an opportunity to grow in a way that allows everyone to thrive.

Q6 Urban Planning: Mandatory parking requirements have been shown to increase construction costs and decrease affordability of housing. Some cities — including Edmonton — have done away with parking minimums, to allow the market to decide how much parking to build. Do you support Saskatoon allowing the market to decide how much parking to include with new developments?

It depends on where the development is occurring. I would not support this if it means more parking concerns for residents who are taking on increased traffic and parking in residential neighbourhoods. If these can be mitigated, I believe allowing the market to decide makes a lot of sense, especially as we move toward a modern public transit system with the BRT.

Q7 Urban Planning: The Meewasin Trail is one of Saskatoon’s outdoor recreation treasures, used daily by city residents and visitors for strolling, running, and cycling. Winding under bridges and linking parks and natural areas along both sides of the river, it runs more than 90 kms in length. If elected, will you support the Meewasin trail development plans currently in progress and look for ways to continue to sustain the trail network in Saskatoon?

Meewasin is widely considered the jewel of our city, and I believe we must continue to build partnerships to support the trail system – including expansion and rehabilitation of existing areas to include wider pathways – especially where there is high pedestrian and cycling traffic.

Q8 Urban Planning: Many Saskatoon neighbourhoods now have speed bumps on residential streets to slow drivers and reduce vehicle noise. Do you support the further expansion of speed bumps as a way to manage the negative effects of car traffic in Saskatoon?

I support the idea, in theory, but would like to see a full report on the recently added infrastructure to measure its effect. Reducing vehicle noise is a priority for me and I was happy to endorse a new strategy to alleviate noise through new enforcement options. There is also a review underway to consider best practices for speed in residential neighbourhoods. This will be coming to Council in the spring.

Q9 Public Transportation: Saskatoon has invested significant resources in the development of a Bus Rapid Transit system as part of the City’s Growth Plan (2016). Planning is well underway for a high-frequency, direct bus service along the city’s major corridors and construction is scheduled to begin in 2022. The full system is expected to be in operation by June of 2025. Are you committed to maintaining the timeline to meet the 2025 completion date for the Bus Rapid Transit system?

BRT is another piece of the puzzle to fulfill the growth plan. By offering a modern public transportation system, described as a “subway on wheels”, we can build a modern, affordable, sustainable city.

Q10 Public Transportation: Other enhancements to Saskatoon Transit have been discussed that would make bus service more affordable, accessible, and reliable, while still minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. They include, for example, changes to the fare system, better connectivity, provisions for the poor and disabled, and improved communications. What are your priorities in further enhancing Saskatoon Transit to meet the needs of all people in Saskatoon?

Changes to our public transportation system should not have a negative impact on affordability, accessibility or reliability. Now that we have decided on the BRT and identified its routes, the next steps will include closing gaps to make sure the system works for everyone.

Q1 Equity: Many youth in our city have limited access to safe, healthy activities after school and in the evening. Within Saskatoon’s marginalized populations, many parents or guardians are either working or not present. This can leave youth at risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviours such as drug use or gang activity. If elected, what will you do to ensure that these young people have access to safe, healthy activities/programs after school and in the evening? 

We continue to work in partnership with our community associations to provide safe, healthy activities for everyone. This includes providing funding to ensure that cost is not a barrier for any person or family. During COVID, these activities have been challenged and as we head into the winter, it will be important for our city to think creatively to support affordable activities.

Q2 Equity: The largest population increase in Canada and Saskatchewan over the next 30 years will be in the over age 65 age group. In that time span it is estimated that this group will grow to comprise 25% of the country’s population.  In Saskatoon the over 65 population now stands at just over 13% of our population. By 2032, that figure is expected to grow to 20%. The city and province need to begin acting now to ensure we are prepared to support and include this new demographic of older adults who want to be active participants in community development and enriched community engagement and inclusion. An age-friendly community is a designation accepted world-wide for cities and communities that are working to make the following elements more age friendly: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; social participation; and, community and health services. Would you support applying an age-friendly lens to all new policies and practices in Saskatoon to ensure the voices and needs of older adults are represented?

We have worked hard to make all transit busses accessible, improve our sidewalk infrastructure and add accessible curb cubs. It’s important to me that we continue this effort, and also add sidewalks where none exist. This is especially important in areas that serve high numbers of seniors. Saskatoon is also a partner to support seniors through the Saskatoon Council on Aging and community associations help to support many activities for seniors. Partnerships are a great way to build a more age-friendly city.

Q3 Environment: Urban forests across Canada and globally are recognized as a municipal asset and part of a city’s infrastructure because of the ecological benefits they confer. Many cities have bylaws in place to protect trees. However, Saskatoon still does not have such a bylaw. As a result, trees are often removed without consideration for the long-term impact and in the absence of scientific evidence on good urban tree management. Do you support creating a tree protection bylaw for our city? 

We are in the process of creating a tree protection bylaw for Council consideration. Our Tree Policy acts in a similar capacity, in that we do have protections in place, and it is important that we continue to seek ways to ensure there are adequate deterrents to those who would violate the policy or future bylaw. I worked with the Saskatoon Tree Coalition to defeat a proposed amendment to consider the removal of nuisance trees.

Q4 Environment: Urban forests across Canada and globally are recognized as a municipal asset and part of a city’s infrastructure because of the ecological benefits they confer. Many cities have bylaws in place to protect trees. However, Saskatoon still does not have such a bylaw. As a result, trees are often removed without consideration for the long-term impact and in the absence of scientific evidence on good urban tree management. Do you support the development of a long-term strategy for ensuring that protection of trees is part of sustainable planning?


Q5 Environment: There is less than 5% of natural grassland remaining in and around Saskatoon, and only 11-13% remaining in all of Saskatchewan. Every year Saskatchewan loses over 10,000 acres of wetlands and the many ecological benefits these areas provide. For these reasons, Saskatoon’s Northeast and Small Swales are especially valuable, providing habitat, flood protection, carbon sequestration, and recreation for a large area of the city. Their loss would have a negative impact on residents. Many major developments are planned for the northeast sector of Saskatoon, including a major provincial highway, industrial development, and new neighbourhoods surrounding the Swales. What measures would you support to ensure long term environmental protection for Saskatoon’s Northeast and Small Swales, and safety for animals and drivers, cyclists and pedestrians? 

The swales are largely considered through a sustainability lens, which could be expanded to include heritage and tourism. This could widen support for protection and preservation of the swales and the animals that inhabit them. Many cities have a river running through them. Few have a city running through an ancient river system.

Q6 Active Transportation: Saskatoon has levied above-inflation residential property tax increases for the last several years. A City of Victoria study found that it costs a municipality $0.01 (one cent) in maintenance for every kilometer of a trip on foot compared to $1 (one dollar) in maintenance for every kilometer of a trip taken by car. Do you support increasing investment in active transportation as one strategy for reducing the amount the City of Saskatoon spends on road maintenance costs?


Q7 Active Transportation: The City’s Active Transportation Plan (ATP) released in 2016 set out the following vision: In 2045, Saskatoon is a leading city for active transportation, where walking and cycling are convenient, comfortable, attractive, fun and normal ways of moving around the city year round for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities. The ATP target is to double walking and cycling trips to 24% of all daily trips and 15% of all commute trips by 2045. Ensuring cyclists and pedestrians feel safe will be one of the keys to achieving these goals. Do you support the City of Saskatoon investing in the necessary physical infrastructure to safely separate cycling traffic from both vehicular traffic and pedestrians?


Q8 Health: Access to public washrooms is a fundamental human right. The United Nations General Assembly declared that everyone, without discrimination is entitled to “have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and social and culturally acceptable, and that provides privacy and dignity.” Access to public washrooms affects everyone in the community and is especially critical for seniors, pregnant women, young children, those with certain medical conditions, and those who are homeless. COVID-19 has highlighted the need for more public washrooms in Saskatoon. Relying on private businesses or non-profit organizations to meet the basic needs of our community is inequitable and amplifies discrimination of some people. In 2017 Washington DC passed a bylaw mandating that city to install 10 public standalone washrooms that are open 24/7, and proposed a program to incentivize private businesses to open their washrooms to the public. Do you support Saskatoon passing a similar bylaw, which will ensure 24/7 access to public washrooms?

I support this, in principle. I am aware of other jurisdictions that have attempted this, and had challenges. Hopefully we can learn from them and create a good plan to support this initiative in our city.

Q9 Climate Change: Urban areas are responsible for around two thirds of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They are also greatly affected by climate change. Therefore, cities have a critical role to play in mitigating and adapting to global warming. The City of Saskatoon has national and global commitments to address climate change issues, as a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and as a signatory to the 2015 Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The City of Saskatoon Climate Action Plan includes strategies for climate change mitigation (Low Emissions Community Plan, or LEC Plan) and proactively adapting infrastructure, services, and programs (Adaptation Strategy). Although the Low Emissions Community Plan has been approved by City Council and many actions are moving forward, many others have not been progressing as planned. Only 10 out of 25 actions that are to be started in the next 4 years (Phases 1 and 2) have been funded. According to the Saskatoon’s Corporate Risk 2018 Annual Report, the City may not be prepared for the effects of climate change, which represents a medium level risk to the overall corporation. One of the main stalemates for the Low Emissions Community Plan has been ensuring the long-term budgeting, as this plan is a 30-year long strategy. Do you support the city committing long-term funding to implement the Low Emissions Community Plan?

Saskatoon has currently endorsed a triple bottom line approach, which means such decisions are considered through a financial, environmental and social lens. Given the many projects that have been identified, there are a myriad of options right now that can save money and lower emissions.

Q10 Climate Change: The 40 actions set out in the LEC Plan will provide a host of benefits beyond environmental protection, such as improving public health, diversifying our local economy, improvement, and increasing equity and quality of life. What actions from the Low Emissions Community Plan would you prioritize to be implemented in your Ward or the City as a whole?

I am interested in many of the options, including the Active Transportation Plan (BRT, cycling network, building density), more and better sidewalks, EV fleet for all large civic vehicles – including Transit; utility grade solar and Property Assessed Clean Energy loans.