Alternatives North took an alternative approach to its city council candidates debate.

Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo
City council candidates Julian Morse, Cynthia Mufandaedza, Steve Payne, Rommel Silverio, Stacie Smith, Terry Testart and Robin Williams at a forum hosted by Alternatives North Wednesday night at Northern United Place.

Rather than answer questions from the audience, candidates were asked on Wednesday their reasons for or against supporting resolutions in a forum that resembled an actual council meeting.

Candidates were split into two groups and presented with resolutions to reduce carbon emissions and waste, to lower the cost of living, and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

The event at Northern united Place was the second and final candidates forum before the election, and all the council hopefuls except Chris Gillander showed up.

Gillander, who declined Alternative North’s invitation, did not respond to Yellowknifer‘s request for comment on Thursday.

The candidates at the debate unanimously supported three of the four resolutions.

The only somewhat divisive proposal was one to “put more resources towards reducing the cost of living for residents and their families earning less than a living wage ($22 per hour).”

Niels Konge, who is seeking a third consecutive term on council, did not support the resolution.

He said “as a council we shouldn’t be focusing our attention on individual groups in the city, I think it should be our mandate that we try to reduce the cost of living for the entire city.”

Konge said the public transit system is inefficient and that the city could implement a “dial-a-bus or an Uber-style system,” where passengers could hail busses.

This could help reduce the cost of living for Yellowknifers as a whole, he said.

Josh Campbell also refused to support the resolution.

“I’ve lived in the lower-income neighbourhoods,” he said.

“I’m definitely not in the affordable housing market yet, so I hear you on this one, and one of the things I can deliver on would be looking at zoning for affordable housing in the future.”

Campbell said the city should also scrap its three per cent annual increase to user fees at recreational facilities.

John Dalton, who supported the resolution, said recreational facilities must be truly affordable because “facilities build community,” and that Yellowknife must stop delivering services that should be provided by the GNWT.

Cynthia Mufandaeza was “definitely in favour” of the resolution to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action.

She said she has spent a lot of time talking to people experiencing homelessness and that the city could put more energy into hearing directly from these residents.

To the TRC resolution, Robin Williams suggested the city build a “world-class healing centre” in town.

Terry Testart said the city could do more to support the Aboriginal Sports Circle and promote Indigenous sports – games other hockey and soccer.

Mark Bogan suggested the street outreach van adjust its hours so people can be driven to the on-the-land wellness camp during the day.

Rommel Silverio, who is seeking a second term on council, said the city should incorporate education about the history of Indigenous peoples in the Yellowknife area into its on-boarding procedures for new city employees.

Dane Mason, a manager of policy and strategic planning at the GNWT, took every opportunity to offer up his unique policy ideas.

On a resolution to reduce the environmental impact of waste in the city, Mason noted that every home has the same waste pick-up allotment, regardless of the number of people who live in it, which is a problem.

He said there are garbage bins that have solar-powered crushers, which allow trash to be compacted “over and over.” There are also recycling stations that operate like “reverse vending machines,” he said, in which you insert recyclables and receive change.

Incumbent councillor Shauna Morgan said building a new garbage pit at the landfill in 2016 cost the city $3.5 million., and that the dump is on track to hit capacity in 10 years.

“About 40 per cent of our garbage is still actually compostable,” she said.

Morgan said council can help reduce waste across the city by following the city’s strategic plan for managing waste, which was published this April.

William Gomes said he made his signs using wood scraps from the dump, and that there needs to do a better job of educating residents about how to sort, reuse and reduce their waste.

Though not directly related to waste management, Edwin Castillo said the city could look harder at “alternative energy schemes, including heat recovery systems.”

In response to a resolution to allocate more resources toward reducing carbon emissions, first-term councillor Steve Payne said the city could look at dropping transit fees to boost ridership, and encourage vegetable gardens to reduce the amount of food shipped into the city.

Stacie Smith said she was “definitely in favour” of the resolution, but that the city’s goal to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2025 is unrealistic.

“That requires residents to also put more money into their homes when we already have a high cost of living,” she said.

Incumbent councillor Julian Morse noted that the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spelled out dire consequences for the planet if governments don’t take immediate and drastic action to combat rising global temperatures.

“I actually looked through the recommendations in that report and felt a lot of hope as I noted that a lot of the recommendations can be implemented on a municipal level,” he said.

Morse said encouraging local food production can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with shipping, and that expanding the city’s bike and trail systems and promoting electric car sharing would also help cut emissions.

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