District 7 Candidates

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smu-shotThe SMU Journal met with the three candidates at an event focused on student issues in this municipal election on September 28th, hosted by the Dalhousie Students Union. Each candidate was interviewed and asked to respond to the same questions on various issues facing students.

 

Sue Uteck

sue-uteck

SMU Journal: What made you decide to run in District 7?

 Sue Uteck: I had been the councilor for 13 years, and what made me want to reoffer was that I see a lot of changes that are going on, they can be good changes but they are not being communicated well and I hear over and over again from residents that they want a councilor who is accessible and available.

SJ: What are your views on making housing more affordable for students?

SU: When I was a student we had rent control, and I think that is something that the province needs to look back into, you at least knew what your budget was and you didn’t have that sudden leap. Right now there is very little affordable housing for students. The new thing is for parents to come in and buy a house and put as many students in as possible to pay the mortgage, if it is a provincial residential tenancy act I would love to work with them to look at solutions, but right now one quick and easy solution would be rent control. I am not in favor of landlord licensing because I don’t believe it will solve the problem. Ninety percent of landlords out there are good, and then there’s the ten percent that are not. As you’re aware as a student, the housing stock changes constantly. It would be impossible for HRM to enforce, they can’t even enforce the minimum standards, the bylaw system is complaint driven and it’s ‘get in line’ at the complaint department. As far as the rights of the student tenant are concerned, we used to do fairs at Saint Mary’s and Dalhousie to hand out the tenancy act, your rights as a student tenant, where to go, and always as a councilor I made myself available. Even if a student had to go to the tenancy board against a landlord, and they weren’t comfortable going I am happy to assist them in that process.

SJ:What are your thoughts on the state of public transport?

SU: Abysmal. We keep investing more and more, and yet fewer people are getting on the bus. I work on Bayers Road, so most days I am riding my moped. The last three times I have (tried) taking the bus, twice it has blown by me. There is a real disconnect between what we envision and what is actually happening. I don’t know if council or staff has listened yet at City Hall.

SJ: Many students get ticketed parking on the streets around Saint Mary’s, what are your thoughts on parking meters?

The most a parking meter will do is two hours, and for me it is just another added burden for the student, and the resident doesn’t want a parking meter. Most residents are fine with the current two hour parking, there is the south side of Robie. Why was that parking taken off? There was an ambulance called during the winter and the ambulance could not get to the resident. The traffic authority dictates where the parking should and should not be, but I would not be in favour of meters around the south end, it will benefit no one except the city wallet.

SJ: What do you think District 7 should stand for as a community?

SU: I think we need a lot more diversity and inclusion, and we’re seeing that with the attraction of more international students at Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s. I think we need to be a more welcoming community as well because you will tend to see international students off in groups on their own, so simple things like welcoming neighbourhood barbecues, and it doesn’t have to just be the international students, it is students who come to the province for the first time. For example, they wouldn’t know what our recycling rules are, and that leads to a lot of confusion and anger between neighbours in the first few weeks.

SJ: What are your thoughts on development in Halifax?

SU: I was part of council in Halifax in 2011, and I was part of the first urban design task force which was a downtown plan, so I knew that development was coming. You can have good development, just like good doctors, good lawyers, there are good developers and bad developers. It is just a matter of needing to sit down, work out a compromise between the residents and what is proposed to be built.

SJ: How do you think we could make Halifax more attractive for recent graduates?

SU: I think you have to look at the big things. Make it easy to get around, make it accessible and make it affordable. We need to look at the universities, and the degrees that are coming in there is a real separation between the economy right now, between what is needed and what students are taking. There is nothing worse than coming out with a crushing debt load at forty five or fifty thousand dollars only to find that the field that you just studied for the last four to five years is not in the job market of today. There has to be some relevance between employers and the universities, and for the students some encouragement to put you in the direction where you know you can succeed.

Why do you think that students should vote for you?

I think that students should vote for me because I have always been a pro advocate of the students, whether it was to bring you your first U-Pass, to put the first urban trail in the city, to have a youth council at city hall, I think that it’s important. Students have a large voice here, they could be the outcome of an election if they just got interested, so I hope they do. And, go Huskies!

 

 

916cbd_f83facf507f942739f0af10d796c27a3Dominick Desjardins

SMU Journal: What made you decide to run in District 7?

Dominick Desjardins: I think that with two major universities, Halifax needs to be youth focused and we’re not. I think we need issues solved like affordable housing, better transit, bike lanes that don’t destroy all the parking in the area, we need someone that will fight for the student vote.

SJ: What are your views on making housing more affordable for students?

DD: I think we need to introduce something called inclusionary zoning, which is something I don’t think either of my opponents have talked about, but what it is, is if a lot is empty, we could zone it as inclusionary zoning, so if a 100 unit building is being built a certain percent has to be affordable. Lets say if 100 units are built, 20 percent have to be affordable. What affordable means in the market would be what it (the price) is. What it is in the south end, unfortunately $800 per month is what is considered affordable for a 1 bedroom. I think we definitely need landlord licensing. Some international students get caught into these leases and they pay upwards of $2000 a month and they don’t know that that’s not right, there are also unsafe decks and balconies, I think landlords are getting away with quite a bit, it’s not an attack on landlords, it’s about safety. I think that it is necessary specifically for homes that have been converted into units.

SJ: What are your thoughts on the state of public transport?

Needs some work! Transport encompasses a lot of things, I think that we need cross-peninsular transit, better routes on the peninsula to go from north to south, direct links to Bayers Lake, There are so many options we can have for transit in Halifax and we need to sit people down in a room and say ‘what do you need from your transit?’ We need to make it about the rider first, not the monetary gain by saving a couple bucks here and there. I think the rural regions of our municipality need transit too, they pay taxes for it, but it needs an overhaul and we need to go back to the community and say ‘what is it that you need from us?’

SJ: Many students get ticketed parking on the streets around Saint Mary’s, what are your thoughts on parking meters?

DD: My opponents have fought against on street parking, specifically around Dalhousie and SMU. I think on street parking is a priority. We need to increase the times that students can park. We all know that transit is not reliable, and if that’s the case then students will drive and get a $50 ticket. There is really no fair deal there for a student. I think we need to have extended times on streets, I think we need parking enforcement in that area to recognize it’s a student friendly area, and not pick on the cars in the surrounding streets.

SJ: What do you think District 7 should stand for as a community?

DD: I think we should stand for growth and opportunity. We encompass the downtown core, I think we can do better with encouraging entrepreneurship, keeping our graduates. WE are in essence the economic engine of this city, I think we need to be aware of that and I think we need to support our businesses downtown.

SJ: What are your thoughts on development in Halifax?

DD: Development needs to be responsible and respectful of the community that it’s in. We shouldn’t have developments like the Wellington street property that’s being developed. The community needs to know what is going up and where it is going up, not just a little meeting with the developers and a little meeting with the community. It is a long process, if we had the center plan in place, which under my opponents didn’t happen, development would be responsible and respectful of the community and the center plan is one of my goals to get done.

SJ: How do you think we could make Halifax more attractive for recent graduates?

DD: I think that we underestimate the power that we have in the city. I think that with all the development going on, we can say to bring on a couple of graduates for possible opportunities to advance and learn in their chosen field, the provincial government is starting to work that way, let’s do that as a city as well. We are the largest city in Atlantic Canada, I think we have the ability to attract graduates and keep them if we put the right policies in place, and that’s transit, housing, and providing opportunities for growth in their career field.

SJ: Why do you think that students should vote for you?

DD: I think as a recent grad I know some of the issues that are going on, I’ve faced them. I’ve faced poor landlords, I’ve faced crazy high rents, I have faced poor transit, I have faced parking tickets, I have faced it all living in the south end, and I think it’s time that we have someone that can reflect a youth centric voice on council.

 

Waye Masonwaye-mason

SMU Journal: What made you decide to run in District 7?

Waye Mason: I have lived here for 22 years, I actually was born here originally though we moved to Dartmouth when I was a kid. I have raised my children here, my children are now of University age, one is in grade 12 one is 21, and I just felt that the kinds of things that mattered to me weren’t getting done in this district. This was four years ago when I first challenged Sue Uteck and beat her. Things that matter to me are focusing on transit, focusing on increasing the standards and getting the bad landlords under control when it comes to substandard housing and overcrowding of buildings. Bike lanes and active transportation infrastructure, walking, biking, making streets accessible to people in wheel chairs like replacing curb cuts and sidewalks. Those are all things that really matter to me, and also the big one for me, as someone who has kids, they were five years younger when I decided to run is parks and playgrounds. I felt like the peninsula was being ignored for investment in parks and playgrounds.

SJ: What are your views on making housing more affordable for students?

WM: I have been working with Mayor Savage, Jennifer Watts and Steve Craig on the housing agenda that we have. Until Mike savage and myself were elected there was no housing agenda at all, there was actually specific clear talks saying that affordable housing was not in the mandate of the municipality. My very first council meeting I argued with the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) and the old councilors, and here we are four years later, we have done the housing needs assessment which tells us how many people are in need, and identifies the different components of the population that have housing need. Just last week we passed a report that is going to council about what are goals are for building 5000 units of affordable housing and the different types of housing, now we are talking about how we can incentivize that through different types of zoning, and make private sector operators build different kinds of affordable housing. We are working with the province to find creative ways, using the tax and permit system to try and incentivize affordable housing, so it is something that is really important to me.

Most of the problems in my district are hearing older, long term residents complaining about the students, but what they should be complaining about are unscrupulous landlords taking advantage of students and cramming them into substandard and sometimes illegal apartments that aren’t built to code, aren’t fire safe and aren’t allowed according to the land use bylaw. The main focus of landlord licensing should be to target the types of buildings which are mostly residential conversions to multi units, like a wood frame house that has been turned into apartments, and make sure that they are actually up to standard, inspected and that they’re legal. This is not a joke or a war on landlords, in Vancouver and Victoria students have died in apartments that caught fire and were not built to code. Illegal basement apartments without a secondary fire exit, anyone who is renting a place like that, I don’t think they should be fined I think they should be in jail. Should I be clearer?

SJ: What are your thoughts on the state of public transport?

WM: Interestingly we are the only city where transit hasn’t really dropped off, most of the other cities have seen transit use fall as gas prices do, and ours has remained steady so I am kind of perversely proud of that. A lot of other medium sized cities have seen people returning to their cars. We have a plan, you know we had three ferries when I was elected now we have five, we are replacing the last two ferries from the 70’s and 80’s, we’re spending 12 million dollars on brand new robust ferried that won’t break down. We have almost replaced the entire bus fleet, this year is the last that the buses that aren’t low floor and wheelchair accessible will be replaced, the buses have air-conditioning now and the GPS works, they’re going to start telling you where they are, so if you’re blind or have visual impairments you will be able to find where it is. In November you’re going to have an app on your phone that’s going to tell you when the bus is coming, so you don’t have to stand in the cold for 15 minutes when it’s delayed, you can finish your coffee. So we’re making a lot of investments in transit, but I think we need to have more bus lines, more transit priority measures so buses can skip through lights before cars go and I would say that rapid transit or the train (commuter rail from Bedford) probably need to happen.

SJ: Many students get ticketed parking on the streets around Saint Mary’s, what are your thoughts on parking meters?

WM: In the new year we are going to have a broad discussion about what we want to do as a community about parking. I don’t like that all of the parking on the peninsula is different street to street, I think we need to have a more uniform plan. Why do we have street parking and how is it going to work, ultimately I think the two hour regulations and the weird rules restricting the time of day that you can park, those do feel unfair to me. We need to talk with the residents who have legitimate concerns, but ultimately a lot of people who do get tickets are parked illegally. We have to try and make sure we’re doing the best we can to maximize parking on the peninsula and make it as efficient as possible, but people are still going ot get tickets if they don’t follow the rules.

SJ: What do you think District 7 should stand for as a community?

WM: I think that district 7 is a lot more diverse than sometimes people think, it includes a couple different areas that have income challenges. Interestingly the place that I have heard students refer to as the student ghetto, (towards the waterfront from Queen Street) the incomes there are below the average by 30% for HRM. What do I think district should be? I think it should be walkable, something that people all ages and stages of life can enjoy and participate in. We should recognize the fact that we need to provide services so that people of all incomes and stages of life are able to participate fully in civil discourse, and the great things that district 7 has to offer.

SJ: What are your thoughts on development in Halifax?

WM: Well it’s interesting, last election the big complaint was that there wasn’t enough development and this time the complaint seems to be that there is too much development, so this is sort of the story of being sunk by your own success. There is good development and bad development, we don’t want to ruin the wood frame neighbourhoods, but I am okay with development on the corridors and hubs. For example, I voted for the ten storey at the end of my street, Vernon and Quinpool, because I think it’s okay to intensify Quinpool road. It’s okay to intensify downtown. Most of the buildings that have been proposed downtown I think are going to make downtown better. I understand the concerns about how the development is happening so quickly if you’re a small business, or if you like shopping downtown it can feel very alienating because, like, three blocks in a row on Granville street are under construction. It’s a tough environment but when it’s done two or three years from now downtown will be transformed, I think it will be magical.

SJ: How do you think we could make Halifax more attractive for recent graduates?

WM: Affordable housing, transit, bike lanes, and jobs. I think the job market has changed a lot, especially for IT, for ocean science and for anyone in engineering. There is a lot of construction, the ship yard, civil engineering, there is a lot aerospace as well. You have people like Ellen Farrell at Saint Mary’s with her venture capital class trying to connect people doing commerce with people doing computer science. Hopefully two or three of those people go off and start a business. I think there is a lot more opportunity to get jobs than there used to be, but I think we also have to be a place that young people go ‘I am not sacrificing by not moving to Toronto or Vancouver by staying in Halifax’ so that means we have to respect those kinds of things that young professionals want.

SJ: Why do you think that students should vote for you?

WM: I think because I have worked really hard for students, I have been on all those issues we discussed, affordable housing, transit, summer U-pass happened because I pushed for it, I went to students unions and associations and I said let’s get a summer U-pass, so I am aware of concerns such as landlord licensing, summer U-pass, bike lines, all those things that I have heard over and over again are concerns for students that are just trying to survive in a increasingly expensive and debt ridden world. So vote for me because I get it.

By Neil Van Horne

 

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