David Kirton

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?

How ironic that Saskatoon is in the middle of the world’s bread basket and food shortages and food poverty still exists. The city needs to lift barriers to community gardens. I believe there should be a community garden in every park. It’s not only something to address food insecurity, but also to bring people together – something I believe is important to Saskatoon’s future.
Many people talk about the inner city being a food desert. Obviously there is no desire by large private chains to open a grocery store there, so we need to find a way to get those without transportation – to grocery stories. I believe it’s time for community based organizations to step up (with the city’s assistance) and provide ways to shuttle people back and forth from their neighbourhoods to grocery stories. We are talking about a passenger van – and a tank of gas every day – small change when you consider the benefits.

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?

The library in my view is a done deal, and a much needed facility in Saskatoon. The library board was completely up front throughout the process. The current facility is outdated, and unable to serve the city to its potential. The cost per average household will increase to $22.47 over the course of six years. The economic benefit of construction will of course be 132 million dollars. The economic benefit once it opens is slated to be 15 million dollars GDP annually. I question two sources of income that the library board states in its budget. . The first – saying that $4.6 million will come from the sale of the current central library site. I’m sure it was appraised at that, but in reality the selling price will only be what the buyer pays. And Secondly – $15 million coming from donations from the community. Once it’s accomplished I will believe it. But that notwithstanding, I support the library build over all of the other big ticket items. We are also hearing of the possibility of lawsuits if the city pulls back from its already agreed to $63 million loan guarantee and that is a concern. And remember – that is a loan guarantee. The city is not handing that money over to the library board. And one last thing on the library – I do not support politicians coming in and undoing what those before them had done. We are witnessing that kind of thing on the federal level and as we look south to the U.S. We can’t keep just going around in circles. That kind of indecision also keeps companies from being attracted to Saskatoon, and we need to keep attracting businesses in order to keep taxes and other costs down.

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?

… and the next challenge in this area will be the castle schools that will be empty when a new school serving the west is built on the current Princess Alexandra site. Let’s not wait until it is too late to make positive decisions about these historic buildings.

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?

Ric Richardson, a Metis man who is mayor of the northern village of Green Lake, was struck with terminal cancer a few years back. Instead of chemotherapy, Ric went into the Boreal forest with his wife, a Metis medicine woman, and picked traditional medicines. Ric is still alive and still mayor. The Boreal is one great big medicine chest!

Our indigenous children need to learn from elders such as Richardson the importance of traditional medicines and traditional approaches to food sovereignty. An effort to establish a traditional garden at Pleasant Hill school fell to the criminal element. The garden that contained traditional plants and vegetables was vandalized repeatedly, and was eventually abandoned.

As a Metis person myself, I will continue to work to ensure young people have the knowledge they need to understand the importance of this. And once again, I bring back the idea of community gardens and how they will help in this goal.

This is only one example of many ways to achieve indigenous food sovereignty. The Saskatoon Tribal Council has a number of leaders who are already working on this issue, developing partnerships with learning institutions such as Sask Polytechnic.

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?

I support affordable housing. Every day during this whole campaign, I have stood up for seniors, single mothers escaping domestic violence, and their children who NEED affordable housing. The recent controversy over the Camponi Housing Development on the edge of Blairmore brought out some concerns about parking, traffic etc. But there was also some race-based opposition to it, which to me, did not even deserve a response.

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?

One just has to drive through high density areas such as Blairmore to see that even with parking minimums, there is overparking . While I understand that there are some affordable housing projects that require less parking than others ( because of anticipated use by seniors for instance, which results in a lower car-count), the possible result of NO minimums could be chaos. I will watch what happens in Edmonton over the next few years

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?

I was very sad the day the province pulled its funding for the MVA, especially considering it was part of the tripartite agreement that gave the Meewasin its birth. Your question deals with its paths and its ability to bring people together, and I completely support that. But the Meewasin is not JUST an urban park. It is a jurisdiction. Without Meewasin, I feel that our river valley would not be as accessible to everybody as it is now, but instead, would have been covered with private ownership. The Meewasin is an important jurisdiction that should only have to focus on the river valley – – and not on fundraising to stay alive.

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?

HUMPS – not BUMPS. And only after MUCH community consultation. As I knock on doors, traffic safety is one of the biggest issues, but there is much disagreement on how to calm that traffic. There are roads where HUMPS work, and others where they would not. I anticipate much debate when city council receives a report on lowering the speed limit city-wide to 40 kph later this year. I don’t want to limit discussion on this to HUMPS. I also want to include creating more marked/lit crosswalks, speed display boards and look at other measures taken in other cities.

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?

I have talked to a lot of people with expertise in this area, and what I have come to believe is that the BRT comes as part of the evolution of a growing city. If the city does not adopt it in the near future, there will be higher costs for all of us, thanks to low ridership our transit department faces. There are still concerns about aspects of the BRT, including its affect on First Avenue, Broadway and 8th Street. If elected, I look forward to asking the right questions to ensure this vision for Saskatoon’s future transportation policy benefits the people of ward three. Questions for instance, about including the Confederation Bus Terminal in the plans! I think we also need to better understand our workforce since the pandemic began. How many people are now working from home? How many will continue to do this? How will that affect transit’s future? One final thought: The BRT must be included in any conversation surrounding a new arena downtown . A new arena will create nothing but chaos downtown without a modern transit system that can efficiently handle the tens of thousands of people who would gather smack dab in the middle of the 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?

QUIT DEFUNDING TRANSIT! Police and fire budgets are huge and important. But so is transit’s. Yet, I have not seen city council be as supportive to transit in the past as they have with the other “big budgets”. We need an efficient transit service, and that does NOT mean buying used buses from other cities. Our city needs to embrace new technologies to provide better and more reliable service. I like the idea of on-demand – but I fear it could be more costly.