Election 2013 questionnaire response: Rob Hennigar, 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.]

Rob Hennigar,
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?


Several things need to be addressed to better direct our City’s growth. We must improve the viability and desirability of infill developments in mature neighbourhoods while insisting new communities are built to the highest standards of sustainability and communal excellence. By providing tax and building incentives in mature areas along with implementing world class standards to our new community developments, we would start to even the playing field. We must enrich our existing neighbourhoods by providing businesses, investors and developers the incentives they need to want to work with us in transforming our existing spaces. We need to engage our arts and design schools along with professional builders, designers and architects to compete for exciting new ways to integrate art, culture and retail into our existing spaces. There should be a sense of competition amongst the design and innovation teams for coming up with creative uses for existing space. 

First we decide what types of infill we want most and then we devise mutually beneficial solutions to incentivize that development. We need to recognize those groups that are world class in their vision and make them city celebrities while at the same time being no longer tolerant of poor building design and inefficient, profit driven models.

There needs to be more land set aside in new communities for infrastructure like recreation centers, parks, paths, urban agriculture and nature reserves. By restricting the amount of land that can be sold within a new community and forcing the development to have a higher percentage for public uses, it will inherently improve the future usability of the community but also increase the average lot price. Not that high priced housing is desirable but neither are culturally deficient neighbourhoods. Mixed use sustainable communities are the goal. Enhance the good in existing neighbourhoods, making them great and insist on better in new, making them less separated by price.

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


As a former owner of several successful independent businesses I feel strongly about supporting independents. When I was starting and growing my businesses what I needed most was low cost access to professional advice and services coupled with access to brilliant minds and collaborative networks of thinkers. When local business is at an unfair advantage to Big Business they need to be able to network with like minded people and come up with creative solutions. Find ways to pool common purchases or expenses, cross market with similar, non-competitive business, develop a local advantage that the outsiders don’t have. There are many ways that small, innovative, creative thinking businesses can get together and perform in unique ways that outsiders can’t touch. We can foster these connections and collaborations by making introductions that bring together groups like academics and industry professionals, giving rise to local business education and networking sessions.

Directly supporting, promoting and living a local lifestyle goes a long way too. Leading by example is imperative and showing people how you do it and why it’s beneficial just makes it that much easier. I like to make my local personal. It feels like you’re helping friends when you start to get “known” at local shops. Letting the stores know that you are shopping local and that you appreciate them being a local choice makes everything worthwhile some days. We find that all the best things come from local and we love to tell all our friends and family how they just have to check out these places and their offerings. Once you start to get to know the people that own and work in the local shops around you, it gets really hard to go anywhere else, it just doesn’t feel right. You need to feel it to believe it. Anyone who already has this kind of personal relationship with a local shop owner knows what I’m talking about. If you don’t, I would highly recommend going out to even just one shop and give it a try.

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


Supporting local food has a good start with FRESH, our current urban agricultural strategy. It was immensely helpful that the plan was produced with a strong orientation towards partnership and collaboration. I think the advisory committee is a strong team with good balance and proper representation from the right groups. The Edmonton Food Council will need to be a strong and purposeful guiding force to move this ambitious project forward and the City along with Sustainable Development will need to continue their support as well.

Fresh is an excellent strategy with a solid foundation. The goals and milestones are now in place and although many of the challenges seem daunting currently, I think with the willingness to collaborate along with the drive and determination of the advisory committee we can step our way through this plan and achieve greatness. This project is world class. Funding, focus and strong continued support and recognition should be applied to all aspects of this program. Edmonton needs to become as proud, if not prouder of our production as we are about our waste management. We should focus more attention around promoting awareness and support of this life sustaining initiative.

Personally I support the farmers market initiative and am working actively to bring a market to Laurier Heights next summer. I support groups like Riverbend Gardens who work with The Hope Mission to bring healthy, local produce to some of our cities most needy individuals. Come join me Fridaythe 23rd for corn picking with the Hope Mission youth or visit me Saturday the 24th at the Valley Zoo Farmers Market where we will be selling the corn along with 20 other fresh vegetables!

From an economic development standpoint I want to encourage collaboration with our Universities to develop our vast flat commercial rooftops for various green initiatives including urban agriculture and solar / wind power production. I see great benefit to planting crops on the now flat rooftops.

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


Listening to our indigenous community before addressing their needs is very important. The Spirit of Edmonton, a collection of 8 individual projects brought forward by Lewis Cardinal, president of the Indigenous People’s Arts and Culture Coalition includes an Indigenous Centre for Art and Knowledge which is Cardinal’s vision of how to tell the story of Edmonton’s rich aboriginal history. We would be wise to work with his vision and help our indigenous people to fully express what their youth needs to learn, embrace and be proud of. The design for this showpiece project was completed by Edmonton’s Douglas Cardinal, the acclaimed designer of the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. With help from all levels of government, private groups and the indigenous peoples themselves we could transform part of our river valley into a national example of symbiotically embracing indigenous historical culture, celebrating and recognizing the beauty of the natural resource while creating something that is in harmony with the river and has inherent respect for nature. From my limited perspective seat, these are the wishes of our original communities and we should want to honour them.

Creating space and paying respect towards indigenous Edmontonians is a big step towards showing that we are committed to not only recognizing this community’s need for self-appreciation and pride but also helping start the long overdue healing process caused by decades of disrespect. Helping build productive and prosperous structures, such as the Indigenous Centre for Art and Knowledge would help show respect. It would also enrich Edmonton’s overall culture, increase tourism, expand the usefulness of our precious river valley and give people yet another reason to be proud to call Edmonton home. I believe there has been a lot of listening done in the past, now is the time for action.

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


Transit and Transportation are key areas in my campaign. In 1962 Edmonton became the first city with a population under 1M to build a LRT, we were very forward thinking. Holding on to this idea 50 years later has held us back. It’s time to explore options and adjust our future focus.

I envision Edmonton as a city which embraces and integrates a world class BRT (bus rapid transit) system into our existing network. Modern BRT is far from simply having dedicated bus lanes, they include specialized services and infrastructure designed to increase the quality and performance of the system and remove the typical causes of bus delay. BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of a LRT with the flexibility, cost and simplicity of a bus system.

BRT is not only relatively inexpensive but it converts easily into alternate mass transportation whether that be LRT or early adopter driverless vehicles. BRT is a great way to get a world-class mass transit system in place quickly and affordably. Done right, BRT can be implemented in half the time and one third the cost as comparable rail based transit. Our mass transportation plan has stalled since the Commonwealth games in 1978 and much like other parts of our infrastructure, we are now playing catch-up and struggling how to accomplish this in the most efficient and effective means possible.

With our existing transit system I would like to explore alternatives to fast tracking more smart bus technology. With the pilot project busses costing $75k+ each and the remaining fleet costing $21k+ each I think we can do better. Much more can be done with “smart” busses than what we see now. I envision a system where there is 2-way communication between people and busses. Riders would be rewarded for frequent bus travel and concessions can be made based on your usage (lower fares, bus waits for you, etc). Ultimately I envision Edmonton working towards driverless vehicle infrastructure and taking the world stage on this initiative.

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


In order to engage the post-secondary community better we first need to raise awareness about what absolutely awesome talent we grow and attract here. Our Universities are world class and in-line with the best in the world, yet very few people realize this because of our humble nature. Better recognition and support of the talent and accomplishments of this amazing group of people will go far to encourage future collaboration as well as spawning new ideas of what is possible. 

My first goal would be to fully engage the U. of A.’s center for nanotechnology for collaborative efforts towards improving our current asphalt mix used in road construction. There is no question our roads are in horrible condition, no question that nanotechnology has been successfully deployed to improve many asphalt mixes in northern climates around the world, no question we have a new cutting edge nanotechnology center, the only question which remains is why is the City not working together with the University? I would work hard to foster this collaboration.

My second goal would be to have our engineers, agrologists and renewable energy students working together with the City to develop ways to make our massive flat-top commercial roof space in Edmonton more productive. I envision a structural base that can support community gardens as well as solar and wind power installations. It takes the City to bring these groups together and give incentive to the businesses to make it work.

My third goal would be to engage our talent at the McEwan University for a transformational usage of the Rossdale Plant. I would love to see this area highlight our Aboriginal heritage and include our diversely rich local arts community. This facility would make an excellent mix-use area, similar to Granville Island in Vancouver but featuring local art, food, products and culture. 

To engage the academics of Edmonton effectively requires both recognition and demonstration of their immense talents and abilities.

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


The biggest challenge in Ward 5 is improving infrastructure and limiting growth. With the SW part of Ward 5 undeveloped it will be under pressure to build more and sprawl out further. The current developments west of the Henday need to be fully developed with proper mass transportation systems (BRT), recreation centers, police stations, and community halls before we allow further development of the south-west. In our established communities we need to develop some of our existing space to be better utilized in our winter city. We need more places to have toboggan hills and skating rinks. We need to rework some roads to better integrate into the Henday structure. Communities need to have more places to gather and come together in a social way. Our oldest neighbourhoods need to have their aging infrastructure evaluated making sure it serves us today and will continue to serve us into the future. We should be looking at better development along the river valley, especially the area surrounding the boat launch at Sir Wilfred Laurier Park. We have some absolute gems with world class potential sitting right in our own backyards yet they remain underused and underdeveloped as we continue to push farther out towards the edge. 

As a candidate for City Council I am working hard to develop a communication connection with the residents of Ward 5. We first need to have an efficient means of surveying our communities and getting information out to them before we can work to solve their problems. Without communication there can be no collaboration. Once the connection piece is in place I would work hard to engage each of our communities and develop both an individual as well as an overall strategy for each area and the Ward at large. Being currently the only councillor candidate not accepting large dollar donations from the businesses that deal directly with City Hall I see no obstacle in allowing only world class developments to occur in our Ward.

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


My website is by far the best way for readers to find out more. RobHennigar.ca

We are even having a contest!! You could win one of 5 iPad minis* 

If readers would like a more in-depth explanation of anything or would like to engage in more personal interactions I am available by phone (780-554-0694) or to meet in person anytime, just get in touch.

You can find me on Facebook at “Rob Hennigar for City Council” – If you “Like” me there, you will start to see more of me in your news feed.

For daily and ongoing bits of me and my opinions, follow me on Twitter @ LHCLpresident where I actively keep you up to date on my musings and goings-on.

Send me an email if you like to Rob@RobHennigar.ca, I love the convenience of email!!

If you have something nasty and unsubstantiated to scream out, I fully encourage you to send me a letter at PO Box 78090 in Callingwood.

If you would like to get involved in our campaign please contact me from your preferred means of communication and we will welcome you aboard with open arms and have you helping out in no time. No part is too small. Small Contribution – Massive Participation – that’s what it’s all about.

Influenced by the people – Working for the people – Count yourself in today! #5for5

*no purchase necessary, skill testing question required, must be resident of Ward 5, full contest details at RobHennigar.ca