[We sent your questions to all the Election 2013 candidates. We are posting their unedited responses in the order that they’re received. – Ed.]
1. In the context of our City’s growth, how will you support the development of existing communities as opposed to new neighbourhoods?
Maintaining mature neighborhoods requires sound fiscal management and long-term planning. I intend to focus on bringing the renewal of these neighborhoods to the forefront, and ensure that we appreciate the value of these great communities. This includes promoting smart development, including residential infill, and enhanced walkability and transit options.
I will work with the city administration and community leaders in mature neighbourhoods to:
- Strive to achieve the 1.5 % tax levy for neighbourhood renewal. This will continue to refurbish mature neighbourhoods roads, sidewalks and drainage infrastructure.
- Build and solidify partnerships between our city council, the public and catholic school boards, and the provincial government to ensure we are planning collaboratively and enhancing the sustainability of mature neighbourhood schools.
- Build school sustainability and early learning partnerships that focus on keeping schools open and providing necessary early learning and childcare spaces in mature neighbourhoods.
- Develop a more aggressive infill housing strategy that is connected to school sustainability, the attraction of new families, and the retention of seniors in our communities.
- Build smart communities that enhance and protect green spaces and parks. We must build in energy efficiency and smart technology for all new infill and support retrofit strategies for older homes in mature neighbourhoods.
2. How will you support independent locally-owned businesses in Edmonton?
Helping local entrepreneurs is another of my priorities – as we develop as a city, it’s important to cultivate successful Edmonton based businesses. Locally owned businesses lead to development of Edmonton industry and maintain high rates of employment. By supporting local businesses we are supporting a structure that directly benefits our local communities and contributes to innovation in the activities and industries that exist in our city.
Edmonton also needs a business revitalization strategy for mature neighborhoods in Edmonton not included in Business Revitalization Zones. This will lead to better commercial development and increased pedestrian oriented infill housing to support these businesses. This includes the creation of a commercial district and retail vibrancy plan, including creating land use amendments and tax incentives geared toward building improvements and new local business development.
I have been an active leader in revitalizing communities in Edmonton, including 118th Avenue and the Petrolia Shopping centre. My emphasis has always been on attracting local businesses and working with local entrepreneurs. I have received several endorsements from individuals I met through my revitalization work.
“Edmonton is 5-10 years ahead of every other Canadian city when it comes to local food, local economies and urban agriculture. This is thanks to leaders like Michael Walters who have walked the talk and have been effective in creating policies and actions that move our neighbourhoods and our city toward a better future.”
–Jessie Radies- Founder of Live Local Alberta.
3. How will you support local food and urban agriculture in Edmonton?
Local food and urban agriculture is a priority for many communities in Edmonton.
I will continue to support the implementation of Fresh, the City Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy and ensure proper financial support for the newly appointed Food Policy Council.
Many will recall that I and other leaders with the Greater Edmonton Alliance led the charge to bring 1000’s of diverse citizens together to include a City-Wide Food and Agricultural Strategy in the 2009 Municipal Development Plan. I have been a leader in advocating for urban agriculture in Edmonton for many years and I am positioned to be its champion on the next city council.
Edmonton’s rich agricultural history can be captured and its legacy preserved by firm land use policies, careful planning and negotiation related to future southern annexation in Leduc County, and creative ‘farm to fork’ programs that promote local producers, local restaurants and public sector facilities sourcing local food.
The growth of the local food economy is well documented in Edmonton and is a critical party of our identity, economic diversity and our search for sustainability in the future.
“Michael has been an important leader in the local food movement. He is a passionate supporter of farmers markets. He led the charge to create the City Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy. He knows how to make city hall work for regular citizens.”
— Janelle Herbert- Owner, Riverbend Gardens and Local Farmer
4. How will you address Indigenous Edmontonians’ history and needs?
I recognize that Edmonton sits on Treaty 6 land. The city needs to acknowledge the valuable cultural contributions of the First Nations community, and identify them as a key stakeholder. There should be more opportunities for participation in civic life, and opportunities to showcase the Indigenous heritage of Edmonton. Trust and partnership is something that takes time to build, and this should be an ongoing priority for the city administration.
I will also be a passionate supporter of the Spirit of Edmonton project developed by the Indigeneous Peoples Arts and Culture Coalition.
I will continue to support the Aboriginal Relations Office and advance the values outlined in the Urban Aboriginal Accord.
As well as a leader with the Southwest Early Years Coalition, which is committed to improving the conditions for all families in southwest Edmonton, I will continue to engage and work with Aboriginal leaders, parents and grandparents to have a real voice when it comes to improving government policy related to the early years and increasing childcare spaces in our city.
5. How do you envision the public transit system evolution?
I envision the public transportation system developing to take pressure of our roads – while spending on our roads is a current priority, it is not a long-term strategy and we need to continue to expand our public transportation system to develop sustainability and accessibility for all areas of the city. I support allocating municipal funding to support the completion of the LRT across the city and would like to see the development of a regional transit strategy and service that addresses the long-term vision for the Capital Region. I also support the development of transportation planning that has new communities rely more on public transportation than on large roads. This would require a greater number of direct bus routes to be available from communities to LRT stations. I also support the development of separated bike corridors in areas with the highest potential for bicycle traffic and for facilities to support bicycle transportation and the development of Bike Stations downtown and on the south side along the Capital Line. I believe the City should be doing more to implement the Bicycle Transportation Plan in a manner that works for both cyclists and communities.
6. What will you do to better engage post-secondary research / students / faculty with the rest of the community?
A sustainable and stable post-secondary system is integral to Edmonton’s social and economic success. With the recent provincial funding cuts, the city’s colleges and universities are at risk of underperforming. This risk is unacceptable and the City needs to act now before long-term damage is done to the competitiveness and success of our higher learning institutions.
Although not a matter of direct municipal jurisdiction, the city has a lot to lose in this current period of instability for Alberta’s post-secondary system. According to the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, universities and colleges in Edmonton employ 6% of our population and contribute over 8% of annual GDP ($6.5 billion). They have also produced over 100 000 graduates with the skills and knowledge that have made Alberta one of Canada’s most successful provinces. In addition to this, numerous community-university partnerships like the City-Region Studies Centre and Community Service Learning exist to create opportunities and research for the City’s departments, NGOs, and businesses to function amongst the world’s best.
As the current situation is largely due to miscommunication and misunderstanding by all stakeholders involved—as outlined by ONEdmonton, a collaborative approach that meets the vision of all Edmontonians is needed. This approach should ensure Edmonton does not lose the social, cultural, and economic benefits it currently receives. It should also recognize the changing needs of Edmonton’s population and the global economy.
With its location near the University of Alberta’s South Campus, Ward 10 already benefits greatly from Alberta’s flagship school. These benefits should be spread to the rest of Edmonton, and the University’s level of excellence should be maintained and improved. This is clear from the work of ONEdmonton, and from student-led initiatives like this summer’s Stand Up For Edmonton. We still, however, have a ways to go.
7. What is the biggest challenge your Ward faces? What solutions would you seek?
Ward 10 is a set of mature neighborhoods, which face many challenges. All of Edmonton’s mature neighborhoods need the City to commit to providing infrastructure to improve basic services such as our roads, sidewalks, and drainage. We need to work on residential infill, developing local shopping options, and having access to good schools. I will work on the implementing the recommendations following the 2012 Elevate Report to address these issues for Ward 10 communities.
I will work immediately to draw together the necessary players and resources to strive for meaningful redevelopment/revitalization of commercial properties like the Petrolia Mall, Blue Quill and Ermenskin Plazas. I will work with the city administration to begin the development of a mature neighbourhood commercial and retail analysis and strive toward the development of new and innovative business revitalization zones in Ward 10.
I understand the issues in Ward 10 because I have been an active and effective member of my community for several years.
8. How can our readers learn more about your platform, contact you with questions or concerns, or get involved in your campaign?