Get to Know Who's Running: Liz John-West (Ward Métis)

By Emil Tiedemann

There happens to be a Municipal Election coming up in Edmonton on October 18, 2021, and I think it's important for locals to get to know the City Council candidates running for their particular ward (as well as their Mayoral candidates, of course). I chose to get more involved in the election this year and so wanted to give each candidate a chance to tell us a little about themselves, their vision, and why you should vote for them. I have sent a 10-question questionnaire to each of the 2021 Edmonton Municipal Election candidates and will post their responses (100% as written) here as they come in. With that said, let's get to know...

Ward Métis

Liz John-West

"I’ve worked in Edmonton’s social services field for over thirty years and understand the needs of people and communities at a profound level. I graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science and have spent my career building community programs, supporting women and children in domestic violence, and I have been a director in two prominent social institutions. I understand community dynamics while having the knowledge and expertise to manage the administrative and financial processes of an organization. In my current position as a director, I manage numerous programs with a staff of eighty and a budget of over 7 million. I work closely with the provincial government in fiscal management, program development and service delivery. I understand the importance of balancing the needs of the organization and clients with the municipal and provincial stakeholders that provide essential partnerships. I know what it is to be a proud Edmontonian, having lived in the community for over 30 years and being directly in touch with my neighbourhood. I feel I know what Ward Métis needs. My father was a successful small business owner, first building houses, and then later running a local grocery store. My childhood also led me to become a strong advocate for women, equality and justice, leading me to complete my MA in Indigenous Community Development. I grew up building a community with my family and my neighbours." 

The Questions:

IE/ Why do you want to run for City Council?

Liz John-West/ I am running for City Council  to be the voice that addresses the unique challenges  facing Ward Métis. I believe with me working on council, people can be confident in knowing that their local representative is listening to their voice and recognizes the many things that make our Ward such a great place to live. Our Ward's incredible mix of cultures, people, and backgrounds all combine to make the mature neighbourhoods and business centers one of the most diverse and unique places to live in Edmonton. I want to ensure that our specific local issues around affordable housing, access to effective transportation, and the unique needs of mature neighbourhoods have someone with a deep and meaningful connection to the community representing them in local government. I want to build a better Edmonton, and I think that running for City Council is the best way to do that.

IE/ Can you tell us about your past or current experiences that you think could possibly benefit/ translate to your position as a member of City Council?

LJWI would say my lived experience and my work experience makes me a great candidate for city council. I have lived and raised our family in Ward Metis and surrounding area for the past 30 odd years. This lived experience allows me to know the challenges and benefits of living in a ward which I will bring to city council. I also have worked in leading large staff teams and overseeing million-dollar budgets and negotiated with the provincial governments on various contracts. Finally, my passion to build a connected community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive is a lifelong commitment for me.

IE/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?

LJW/ I would say the biggest issue facing Edmonton right now is the impact of covid-19 on our city. This impact is felt on so many different levels from how our seniors are taken care of in our society, to people who have lost jobs, to businesses no longer being able to survive, and finally managing a city budget under an economic depression. 

As much as the city and province has struggled to find meaningful solutions to housing covid-19 has magnified the housing issue where we now have thousands of vulnerable people living outside.

IE/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?

LJW/ The issues which are facing Ward Metis which I would like to focus on is to ensure affordable housing is provided through the re-development of Bonnie Doon mall and Northlands site. Meaningful community consultation occurs at Kind Edward Park and Terrace Heights neighbourhoods where permanent affordable housing units are being built. Infill housing is done in a respectful manner taking into consideration the neighbourhood and specifically the two houses on either side of the infill. Finally, various transportation modes such as the LRT, new bus routes, bike lanes and walking paths are created to build a connected community.

IE/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?

LJW/ The City of Edmonton is aspirational in its innovation, initiatives and strategies.  All 5 focus areas lend well to building a great city. I like the Edmonton Smart City initiative; I think adding free wi-fi in all city of Edmonton facilities including transit centres would be a great way to ensure consistent and low-cost access to the internet for all Edmontonians. 

I support the city's focus on women in leadership and Gender Based Analysis on city policies under the Women’s Initiative, however I would also add affordable childcare, which is easily accessible in all neighbourhoods, and add the Economic Development for Women portfolio to WAVE.

IE/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?

LJW/ With gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention initiative I would the conversation around the perpetrators of violence and assault, and the importance of recognizing that the perpetrators behavior needs to change if we are to eliminate violence and assault against women. We also need to pay attention to places within the city which enhance gender-based violence and sexual assault such as massage parlors and ensure they are eradicated. 

Edmonton’s Urban Wellness Plan is very aspirational however there is no mention of community leagues or libraries, or neighbourhood connect programs as places of connection. 

Under the Engagement & Inclusion I would add Newcomers since Edmonton’s population growth will be based on newcomers and also add children and youth, as they are our future. 

The SafeCity YEG not only captures the safe and unsafe places but also should capture the gender and ethnicity of the person answering the question. This will give a clearer picture of who is feeling safe and unsafe in Edmonton. 

Nowhere in the City of Edmonton Innovate and strategies did I find racial equity.  Racial equity needs to be focused on if we are to build a city where everyone not only belongs but everyone also thrives.

IE/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?

LJW/ As a public official, social media needs to be seen as an opportunity to have conversations with each other. And just like conversations we might have with each other in person, there needs to be a level of respect and common courtesy extended. Just disagreeing with what someone has to say isn't enough to walk away or block them, but that doesn't mean officials shouldn't have the right to block abusive, intolerant, or otherwise harmful commenters.

IE/ When it comes to COVID-19 restrictions, what do you think we got wrong (if anything) as a city or province, and is there anything you would want to do differently (municipally OR provincially)?

LJW/ I think what we got wrong as a city is that we didn’t do enough to take care of our people. We didn’t pay attention to the opportunities which would lift off the tremendous amount of stress many of us faced. We could have immediately ensured that workers in seniors homes were paid enough so that they didn't have to go to multiple locations and jobs to make ends meet. We could have used many of the empty community league buildings as hubs for 24 hour daycares so that parents could still work especially when they were at home. We could have provided subsidized or free internet service to families who needed internet service to attend school or work from home. We could have used many empty universities and colleges rooms for junior and senior high school learning. This would accommodate physical distancing among hundreds of students and teachers. Finally, we could have used this opportunity to leverage both the provincial and federal governments for long term permanent affordable housing for the city's most vulnerable. I would say our city council missed an opportunity to advocate for the needs of Edmontonians with the provincial and federal governments.

IE/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?

LJWMy favourite thing about living in Edmonton is all the festivals. Almost every weekend my husband and I get on our bikes and go to different festivals around town. I love the music and art festivals found at the Strathearn Art Walk and Kaleido. I love hanging outside and listening to music and looking at beautiful art while hanging out with friends and family and eating street food.

IE/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?

LJW/ Introvert who loves human interaction.

Thank you, Liz!

Follow along with the candidates on Twitter 

Find Liz on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram
See Liz's Platform/Priorities HERE.
Visit Liz's website HERE
Contact Liz HERE.


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