Election 2013 Questionnaire Response: Dan St. Pierre, Ward 5

[We sent your questions to all the Election 2013 candidates. We are posting their unedited responses in the order that they’re received. – Ed.]

Dan St. Pierre, candidate for Ward 5
Dan St. Pierre, candidate for Ward 5

1. In the context of our City’s growth, how will you support the development of existing communities as opposed to new neighbourhoods?


Education and information. I have seen so many designs and proposals for multi-family housing projects, as well as infill projects, that are dynamic, sustainable and cognizant of existing community design motifs. I think when we talk about increasing density it sometimes conjures images of large tenements or generic condos. Infill can incorporate many different design concepts with many different types of housing and mirror styles found in existing communities. 

Throughout some of Edmonton’s most mature neighbourhoods there are beautiful row houses, classic-looking brownstones, contemporary townhouses and cozy duplexes. I do think it behooves the City of Edmonton to invest in infill development through tax-incentives, renewal grants and strategic zoning, although this last element I believe should involve some community consultation. Infill does not mean fill-it-all-in, there will continue to be outward growth. The key is striking a reasonable balance between growing up and growing out, relying to heavy on one or the other is not sustainable.

2. How will you support and promote independent locally-owned businesses in Edmonton?


Well I suppose first and foremost as a customer! I love the coffeehouses, restaurants, wine bars, clothing stores and myriad other eclectic local business in Edmonton. By patronizing locally-owned businesses, Edmontonians are creating the very prosperity that makes our City successful. We also need to work hard to remove barriers to businesses in Edmonton. I’ve heard a number of instances in which the City was not as responsive as it should have been, or the processes that govern how businesses can function within Edmonton are burdensome. I would like to make sure that the way in which the City deals with its business community is as productive as possible because it is a key to continued economic success in Edmonton. Business owners are constituents too and they can be assured that I will be available to hear their concerns. I will advocate, on their behalf, to improve the processes they have to follow and make their dealings with the City more efficient. I also think we have an opportunity, with all of the activity and development happening Edmonton, to attract new business here. That can include tax incentives, re-zoning and other means to offer what corporations, small business, even home operated, internet-based business, what they need to be successful in Edmonton.

3. How will you support local food and urban agriculture in Edmonton?


I support urban agriculture. A First Nations friend and I recently had a lengthy discussion about the growing disconnect between us and how we procure our food. He believes this disconnect affects the kinds of food choices we make. Urban agriculture has the ability to reconnect us with our food, provide healthier choices and contribute to the local economy. I love FRESH, Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. I think it is a fantastic initiative. Food security, sustainability, the environment and the local economy are all front and centre in this Strategy. I would encourage the incorporation of agriculture into how we develop some of the communities in our City. I have seen communities in European cities developed around locally grown and communally maintained gardens and agricultural facilities and these communities thrive. Do I think that is the best approach here? That is hard to say, but a healthy conversation about how we develop and grow our food is a good thing.

4. How will you address Indigenous Edmontonians’ history and needs?


The First Nations friend I mentioned in my previous answer also happens to be my campaign manager. Together we have had numerous discussions about the importance of tradition, history and culture to the various Indigenous and Aboriginal communities in Edmonton. I am also currently working with the Metis Settlements General Council on a variety of issues. Primarily, these issues include governance reform, capacity building and financial sustainability and all of the work is cognizant of the unique nature of the Metis Settlements and the culture and history of the Metis People. Edmonton has a large Aboriginal community and it is important that in our dealings with members of this community that we demonstrate respect for their history and culture when we are looking for ways to address their unique needs. There is some give and take here in the sense that for a relationship to work between the City of Edmonton and its Aboriginal communities, there needs to be a willingness by both parties to recognize compromise and communication is the key to any successful partnership. The best lesson I have learned working with the Metis is that listening to them without any preconceived notions about their circumstances or background. My commitment is to leave the door open to our Aboriginal communities and to understand their concerns without preconceptions.

5. How do you envision the public transit system evolution?


First, I would use technology to collect data that will help us gain a clearer understanding of ridership, peak hours, distribution of resources and other key pieces of data. The City is already working towards using SmartFare technology that will give us the ability to reallocate transit resources and assists which will increase the efficiency of ETS and reduce cost while improving service. 

Second, we need to resolve the LRT funding issues and move this project forward. I understand that the LRT expansion requires significant financial resources, but to be a sustainable, successful urban centre in the twenty-first century, we need to invest in how we move people. I would like to accelerate the timelines for the remaining LRT extensions, however this is dependent upon our capacity to do the work and on funding. I do believe that the other orders of government need to step up on the LRT issue. 

Third, we need to integrate transit into our communities in a way that creates minimal impact but maximizes usership. With smart, well-planned designs for community stations and routes, as well as meaningful community input, I believe we can create an outstanding public transportation network for Edmontonians.

6. What will you do to better engage post-secondary research / students / faculty with the rest of the community?


Having recently graduated from MacEwan University, I have a pretty relevant insight into this issue. One thing we did at the Students’ Association to create greater involvement of recent graduates or students continuing their studies was to expand internship opportunities and part-time coordinator positions within the organization. We hired our graduates and students so they could gain practical experience that would serve them in the job market and they often had some fresh perspectives on how we approached challenges and issues. It also created greater buy-in, meaning these students, having a hand in developing initiatives and programs, felt more included, helped advocate for their fellow students and worked that much harder to achieve results. This is one approach I would seriously look at to engage students in municipal governance. In addition, beyond using expensive consultants, there may exist some opportunities to engage faculty and researchers at our post-secondary institutions to assist in developing strategic plans or solutions to issues that face our City. In my view, this engages our academic community, provides the City with deliverables it needs to operate and expands the base of those whom we consult with about decisions that affect Edmonton. It is always amazing how effective leaving one’s office door open and listening can be in generating consensus. This is just one way I would engage our academic community with the broader community.

7. Councillor candidates: What is the biggest challenge your Ward faces? What solutions would you seek?


I think there are three key challenges. First is infrastructure. Established neighbourhoods are in need of adequate renewal and many residents are concerned about the pace and quality of road renewal. Second, rapid growth. Ward 5 has tremendous growth happening west and south of the Anthony Henday and residents are concerned that amenities and services may not arrive as fast as they should. Third, property taxes. Residents are very aware that they are being asked every year to pay more but they are not necessarily seeing the value for their money.

On the roads issue, I would like to see the City use higher quality materials that are more appropriate to our climate. Longer lasting materials will reduce our maintenance and replacement costs over the lifespan of our roads.

In terms of growth, we need to ensure that we are being proactive and planning for the influx of residents that the continued development will bring. Simple things like upgrading intersections proactively, to address increased density, will be less costly and less disruptive to communities.

Finally, on property taxes, we must negotiated a more sustainable financial framework with the Federal and Provincial governments. Cities are responsible for nearly 70% of infrastructure yet only receive less than 6 cents of every tax dollar collected. That is not a practical distribution when considering the high cost of infrastructure and the long term financial sustainability of municipalities.

8. How can our readers learn more about your platform, contact you with questions or concerns, or get involved in your campaign?


I can be reached in the following ways:

Web: www.danstpierre.ca

Email: dan@danstpierre.ca

Phone: (780) 905 1544

Twitter: @stpierredan

Facebook: Dan St. Pierre