Election 2013 questionnaire response: Scott McKeen, Ward 6

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

Scott McKeen, candidate for Ward 6.

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


This, to me, must be the top priority for the Ward 6 councillor, if not city council. A more compact city isn’t just more environmentally sustainable, but also financially sustainable. Further growth on the outskirts brings with it increased demand on civic facilities and services — and in fact, the demand to grow those services to offer equitable service levels to new subdivisions.

How do we slow the outward growth of Edmonton, in a time of relatively rapid population growth. I don’t have all the answers, but am open to creative solutions. I’ve long argued, however, that we must make the city core as attractive as possible, as a place to live and raise a family. So we need a park or parks downtown, which can host a considerable amount of new population. We need to ensure our downtown is safe and feels safe. Police officers walking the beat not only make the place safer, but add to the aura of safety. This gives comfort to people.

We must recognize that most Canadians grow up with a psychological template of success. Typically, it says you must buy a home in the suburbs to raise a family. We’ve got to overcome that by making the core a viable place for a couple to stay once they start a family.

As for Ward 6 neighbourhoods outside downtown, we’ve got to work with communities to encourage high-design, higher density housing, such as Brownstone-style row housing, duplexes and even two detached “narrow” homes on existing lots. The suburbs will ‘win’ in price unless we offer creative, attractive, higher density housing in the historic neighbourhoods of Ward 6. Fortunately, this is already happening.

I’d also ask city administration to look at tax incentives for Ward 6. However, I’d want to know the consequences of a tax program to encourage infill and renewal in these communities.

I fear the closure of schools in Ward 6 neighbourhoods. If it happens, I would help with an all-out effort to create new, vibrant and community-service uses for these schools.

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


In any way I can. When I was a columnist with The Edmonton Journal I wrote a couple of columns on the importance of Jessie Radies efforts to encourage support of local business. I also wrote numerous columns on local shops and restaurants, from the Sunbake Pita Bakery in Rosslyn, to the gems on 104th Street downtown.

A councillor can and should use his profile to support and encourage buy-local initiatives.

The City of Edmonton’s procurement policies give a slight edge to local companies. I’m not sure this could be altered or should be altered. We want our local companies to be successful in other markets and don’t want to mess with their success by creating parochial procurement policies.

I don’t have all the ideas. I’d never claim that. So I’d be willing to do what I can — and lobby other councillors to do what we can — to support local, independent business.

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


I’ve long thought the City should end some of its leases on surface parking lots in the downtown and turn the land into community gardens for residents — especially people living downtown and in Oliver. This would not only allow people to grow some of their own food, it would put many more eyes on the street downtown, creating a greater sense of community and safety. There might be other surplus lands in Edmonton that would work for community gardens, as well.

I’m aware of and keen to protect valuable agricultural soils around Edmonton, especially in the northeast. Council has already made policy decisions on the northeast. However, I’d be strongly opposed to relaxing any of the agricultural zoning in the development plans for the northeast.

Again, I’m open to ideas. This issue is near and dear to me. I feel we’ve lost touch with soil and how our food is grown. Urban kids and their parents will benefit socially, psychologically and nutritionally from policies that encourage gardening and urban agriculture. 

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


With humility. With an open heart and mind. With outreach and invitation.

Most of us are blessed with white privilege. We must pause and recognize that this privilege does not allow us to exploit First Nations, Inuit and Metis people further, by imposing our ideas of how to address the needs and/or aspirations of urban aboriginals.’

We must instead invite our aboriginal citizens to speak of their wishes and actively listen. With honour and humility we can start a journey of healing and respect. From it will come the ideas.

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


We are laying the groundwork now for a transit system of the next 100 years. I am a fan of LRT over buses and the streetcar-style LRT over the commuter-style LRT of the first generation.

Critical to this, I think, is creating a prosperous downtown, linked to major post-secondary. It is obviously easier for transit if downtown becomes more and more of a financial, business, culture, retail and residential centre.

Edmonton and its workplaces are terribly spread out. It is a nightmare for transit planners. So, again, the more that develops downtown, the more the LRT hub system makes sense.

In coming years, the plethora of parking lots downtown will disappear. Transit will naturally take on a more important role.

Edmonton is a relatively young city. It is sprawling. Employment hubs are all over the map. We can and must use LRT strategically to focus on residential/employment growth areas.

The site of the current Rexall Place, for example, would seem to be a prime location eventually for a mixed-use development of residential and/or retail, light industrial or tech businesses, as it sits on an LRT stop.

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


In the past three years I did some communications consulting with science and technology students, agencies and firms. I want to stay up on innovation in the Edmonton region and would use my office as a resource for promotion and collaboration.

My consulting work with Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, as well as with private firms, convinced me that there is a tremendous amount of tech innovation going on behind the scenes in Edmonton. The City of Edmonton can help these firms with promotion, vital connections and, in some cases, perhaps even some seed capital.

I believe the City of Edmonton must lead the way in engaging with bright young minds and talking to them about what they need to convince them to stay here, to help build the growing knowledge economy.

The city already has the Next-Gen committee. But I’d want to hear of other ways we can engage with post-secondary students to glean their ideas and concerns to better inform city council’s decisions..

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


The biggest challenge Ward 6 faces is that of dropping down the civic priority list. The cautionary tale from other cities in North America is that the city centre can be lost. Cities that do not keep their core clean, safe and free of disorder and urban decay witness a flight to the suburbs.

Edmonton in the past decade has invested close to $10 billion in new infrastructure. Less than five per cent went into the core communities of Ward 6. The momentum is outward and Ward 6 was largely forgotten in the growth rush. Yes, the downtown arena will bring considerable investment with it into downtown.

But much of the $2.5 billion in investment associated with the arena will come from the private sector. It is incumbent on the Ward 6 councillor to be an unapologetic and strong advocate for the core.

Even with the arena and related investment, the City of Edmonton must focus on ensuring the core is revitalized, maintained and policed to allow it to become the true heart of the city, attracting not only tourists but regular visits from Edmontonians who live outside Ward 6.

Ward 6 is in many ways Edmonton’s showpiece — a place of culture, art, music, business and dining. Edmonton will be judged on how it looks, by visitors, conventioneers and investors. We must focus on Ward 6 in coming years, to ensure it is a place all Edmontonians visit and enjoy, with pride.

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


We welcome participation in the campaign. The website is ScottMcKeen.ca

Contact information, as well as avenues for volunteering, questions and donations are all available at the website.

Thanks so much for this opportunity. Your questions are challenging, yet compelling. My answers are limited and likely flawed. My position as a councillor will be to make decisions based on as much information, evidence and consultation as possible. I am not ideological. I believe that collaboration, consultation and research leads us to the best decisions we can make.


Scott McKeen

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