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?
While I don’t think it’s the place of City Council to directly intervene to create businesses in certain neighbourhoods, the issue of food security and accessibility certainly is an important one. I would definitely want to make it easier for businesses to obtain operating permits, re-zone retail, commercial or residential areas (to be turned into grocery stores or other food centres), and otherwise operate in the city more easily. Perhaps the best way other than streamlining how the city does this would be to allow businesses to operate grocery stores in a particular location once previously owned by the likes of Safeway, OK Economy/Loblaws, etc. As for trying to ensure Saskatoon residents have access to “healthy and affordable food”, that is another matter altogether and is up to the private sector. I certainly would not have been onside with the City forcing the hand of the Farmers’ Market to relocate from their previous space at River Landing. That said, the City failed to do its due diligence on the old makeup of the SFM board, which was fraught with all kinds of governance issues that led to soured relations with City Hall and a poor working environment.
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?
I believe the current plans for the new downtown library need to be revisited so as to eliminate any borrowing in the plans (the $75 mln from existing taxpayer contributions should be more than sufficient for a new building). Furthermore, the plans should envision a multi-purpose facility much like the Lawson or Lakewood Civic Centres, perhaps by involving a partner such as the YMCA. Finally, any design RFP for the new library should not exclude local architectural or design firms by demanding that the library be designed by a “library designer” or a “library design bureau” or the like. At a time when everyone is being asked to support local and shop local, the SPL should be committed to keeping as much of the planned design and build budget within the city or province as possible. The fact that the SPL board has not once in the last 8 months of board meetings brought up the elephant in the room – how Covid has utterly and irrevocably changed the landscape of citizen interaction with libraries and public services – simply must be addressed, and the fact that it hasn’t been means to my mind that the board has failed in its duty of responsibility to represent the interests of all citizens of Saskatoon.
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?
While I am in support of preserving cultural heritage, including civic buildings, the fact that previous civic administrations have provided little if any support to past and current property owners does not bode well for ensuring the success of such future support for heritage. In many cases, civic oversight of heritage properties (as in the case of the old Farnham Block on Broadway Ave.) has in some cases prevented or stymied such owners’ ability to make it financially feasible to maintain such heritage buildings in such a fashion as to render them viable for future use.
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?
Other than to encourage and entice entrepreneurs to build and operate grocery stores in low-income neighbourhoods of Saskatoon, the City could perhaps contribute to Indigenous food sovereignty by having more public school green areas turned over for urban gardens, but this runs into the issue of provincial mandates that force the City and the school boards to include a certain amount of green park (not garden) space as part of any new construction plans, with existing areas to be maintained as they are. Given this specific fact, the province and the federal government need to be involved in so as to liberalize the existing property use matrix and then to make it attractive for investors, including First Nations, to participate in this segment of the economy. In my personal experience of having operated a community garden land plot in the King George neighbourhood, no Indigenous residents were part of the garden, and I don’t think mandating a percentage of such gardens be kept over for their participation would change the current levels of participation in this area.
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?
Property developers that sign on to build such affordable housing should be given tax breaks/abatements for doing so, and conversely they should be penalized for breaking such agreements and turning over such properties for private development.
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?
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?
This survey should have an option here of “I don’t know”. I do not know what the current plans are for the Meewasin Valley trail development, though I do support access to the river, to the trail system, and would not want to see commercial development along the river at any point.
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?
Not all areas of the city are suitable for speed bumps, so to my mind a mix of speed bumps, signage and other traffic calming measures should be employed to ensure that accidents and speeding in key areas of residential areas are reduced.
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?
The costs associated with the projected plans are way too high, especially given the existing (and erroneously projected) city population and increased size of our road network. A plan prepared some years ago for Saskatoon Transit (which City Council apparently never saw) would have enabled 15-minute service city-wide using existing fleets, operators and maintenance. We need to consider a range of different options to have transit move people around the city effectively before spending 9-figure sums to try to make this happen.
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?
- We need to completely re-think the concept of “hub and spoke” transit service across the city. This model is both outdated and cumbersome.
- We need to move back to a privatized model for Access Transit, as the city-run service has been a debacle and cannot continue to run in its present form.
- We must consider bringing in a new type of fleet bus into the mix to provide service: to and from the airport (servicing city hotels and the airport alone and NOT acting as a milk run for residential service in certain underserved areas of the city); and, to the northern industrial areas, which should be facilitated using buses that would go from Confederation Mall and Lawson Heights Mall directly to these areas rather than first going downtown before returning to these areas.
- We need a direct pay option in city buses that allows for use of debit “tap” functions. Having to buy transit passes or the like ONLY in certain retailers or at the city’s transit office downtown must be augmented with readily available technology that might encourage more on-the-spot ridership.