By Emil Tiedemann
There happens to be a Municipal Election coming up in Edmonton on Monday, 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...
"My husband and I chose to build our home in this ward 16 years ago to start a family and raise our kids here. I’ve seen Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi grow from dirt roads and fields to the vibrant and diverse community it is today. I’m proud to have played a role in helping it get to where it is now, but there is much more work to be done. It has been my joy to serve Edmonton for over 20 years. From advocating for schools in this ward to successfully managing multi-million dollar projects, I know how to get critical community services and amenities to the people who need them. Now, I want to be a champion for you at City Council."
I♥E/ Why do you want to run for City Council?
Rhiannon Hoyle/ I am running because public service is my life passion, I have a deep love for community building. I have been passionately volunteering and serving our city for over 20 years from the downtown core to suburbs helping youth, families, seniors, newcomers from all walks of life. As a city, we are hard pressed by the ongoing pandemic, and are in the wake of its damage to our sense of belonging, our economy, and our businesses. We have seen like never before the gaps that exist between communities. We are at a critical time when true leadership means stepping up to boldly make change for the better, looking for common ground and having the difficult conversations about our future, the tradeoffs and how we will move our city forward in a prosperous and positive way for all. I believe that “better” can be achieved. Despite the immense challenges that we face, there is hope in our city: we have vibrant communities that throw themselves into fostering love and wellbeing. We have beautiful parks and river valleys for all to enjoy. We have businesses that feed our families, make us feel better, heal us, and help us. We have innovative and talented people who are building our future. And I have plans to nurture the best of what Edmonton has to offer, so together we can create a strong, thriving, and caring Edmonton. You will not find someone who is more ready or willing to do the hard and necessary work to collaboratively empower our citizens, build trust, and foster a strong sense of accountability. Especially in these challenging times, we need to elect strong leaders who will build effective collaborative relationships, take action and be accountable.
I♥E/ 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?
RH/ The foremost experience that will translate to my position on City Council is that I have lived in and served ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi for over 16 years, so I am deeply immersed in the issues that matter most to us. I love our community and have fought tirelessly to make it a more welcoming, happy, and safe place to live. For example, during my time as President of my Community League and representative with the EFCL, I raised $1.6 million to build 3 badly needed playgrounds in our ward, and championed development efforts towards the new Edmonton SouthWest Hospital. I have been an advocate on dozens of issues in our city, and am never afraid to speak up for those I represent. From serving on multiple boards over the years, I bring strong and effective governance experience. I am also the only candidate with actual business experience; I owned a successful business for 10 and a half years, which specialized in compressed Breathing Air Analysis and medical gas testing for oil field and hazardous environments, ensuring workers safety and patient care in healthcare facilities. Finally, I am a parent and grassroots leader with extensive volunteer political and community experience.
I♥E/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?
RH/ Recovering from the COVID pandemic is a top issue. We need to regain our communities and sense of normalcy, but also very importantly our economy. Stimulating investment in local business and innovation will be essential. We need to remove administrative barriers and provide better support to local businesses, so they can access investment and grow. There is a huge opportunity to increase access to and quality of what the airport has to offer to connect Edmonton to the global economy. The Edmonton International Airport contributes $3.2 billion to our economic output, and provides 26,000 jobs.
Focus on excellent and transparent communication around the factors that influence decision making so residents are better served. Engagement requires careful planning and preparation, bringing all stakeholders together into the process so that we can define the purpose and needs for everyone involved. This means consistently informing and educating residents on issues, while giving them different means to access me in multiple ways. We also need to create space for review and evaluation with expert input, so that we are always making the most transparent, evidence-based decisions. Expanding upon the City's Public Engagement Initiative to continue to foster strong and positive relationships between our City and Edmontonians. This will help set clear expectations for communities, businesses, investors, and all involved in helping build our City.
Supporting a mixed housing plan that includes single-family homes, duplexes, condos, garage suites etc. that serves all and meets the needs of residents at all stages of life. We need to address the immediate needs of those who are unhoused, take care of our youth, and work to make sure those who are on the verge do not become dehoused.
Finally, we must work together to end discrimination in our city. From hijab-wearing women being attacked in public to the ongoing need for more and better reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbours, it is clear that we have a way to go. I will commit myself as City Councilor to this important work, so that everyone can feel at home in Edmonton.
I♥E/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?
RH/ Make sure we are getting high quality core services for our taxpayer dollars, many residents have mentioned that our core city services are inconsistent throughout the ward.
Improving the recent bus network redesign to better serve students, seniors and the rest of our community. Focus on meticulous project management and oversight of the Capital LRT Line (Twin Brooks area). We also need to explore partnerships for funding to set up transit that brings value for all residents and businesses.
Prioritizing the repairs of potholes, sidewalks, and roads in some of our more established neighbourhoods, such as Blue Quill, Ermineskin, Steinhauer, and Skyrattler. We have serious issues with accessibility and walkability. We need better planning from the start and more accountability to get it done.
Actively engage and empower community leagues, and the volunteer residents who run them, so they can implement creative ways to make our communities more active. Community leagues are the heart of our neighbourhoods, and they know better than anyone else what neighbourhoods need.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?
RH/ 1. Increase citizen engagement. Engagement requires careful planning and preparation, bringing all stakeholders together into the process so that we can define the purpose and needs for everyone involved. This means consistently informing and educating residents on issues, while giving them different means to access me in multiple ways. We also need to create space for review and evaluation with expert input, so that we are always making the most transparent, evidence-based decisions. In addition, providing continual opportunities for citizen feedback on projects to create an open and transparent service model. We need to expand upon the City's Public Engagement Initiative to continue to foster strong and positive relationships between our City and Edmontonians. This will help set clear expectations for communities, businesses, investors, and all involved in helping build our City.
2. Breathe initiative is a transformative strategy to make sure that as the city grows, each neighbourhood will be supported by a network of open space as Edmonton continues to grow. The main goal of the Green Network Strategy is to plan and sustain a healthy city by encouraging connection and integration of open space at the site, neighbourhood, city and regional levels. The green network is all of the city’s outdoor land and water that is publicly owned and/or publicly accessible. This network approach is a land-use planning approach that looks for solutions based on the interactive and interdependent nature of many factors. These factors include how people use the land, development planning, surface and groundwater flows, landforms and slopes, species and habitats, and ecological conservation. This initiative could help increase and enhance livability, accessibility and a greater sense of belonging in our neighbourhoods and city.
3. The Community Safety & Well-Being Task Force and 14 recommendations for revisions to policing in Edmonton. Work to implement preventative and proactive solutions that build trust, where we look for common ground, and implement evidence based collaborative approach in addressing issues attributed to systemic racism and discrimination. This includes bringing in resources to assist in situations where addiction and mental health are at play. Ensure everyone feels safe in our communities and Edmonton.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?
One city initiative that has disappointed me in the recent past is the consideration of the Prairie Sky Gondola. I have concerns about the City possibly putting itself in a situation where it may be liable for spending money on something that seems at this time like an impractical luxury. I am wholeheartedly on board with downtown revitalisation, and I believe in the value of fun and interesting attractions. Nevertheless, and especially at this time, such a spending liability would be unwise to take on. Instead, as a community builder with a proven track record for responsible management and successful projects, I would prioritize spending on proper development planning, repair of road issues in some of our more established neighbourhoods, and accessibility. If our projects are planned and prioritized better, Edmonton will simply be a more attractive and lovely place to live.
I♥E/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?
RH/ Elected officials are public servants who should be accessible, excellent communicators, who are open-minded and willing to listen, understand, and learn about perspectives and ideas held by the people they represent. They should be collaborative bridge-builders between community residents and the City of Edmonton, looking for common ground. As such, elected officials should welcome the opportunity to have challenging and difficult discussions in order to learn and better understand and to create opportunities for quality conversations with residents.
That being said, elected officials are also people. If there is harassment directly related to racism, sexism, hate speech, expletive speech or violent threats, direct impact to their mental health, then no elected official should be expected to tolerate it. Hate speech, toxic and abusive behaviour from anyone should not be tolerated, or given a platform. However, citizen concerns or disagreements, even if expressed passionately, do not warrant them being blocked.
I♥E/ 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)?
RH/ I believe that our City has been acting in good faith to protect the lives of their constituents. The timing of restrictions could have been handled better by our Province, so that spikes in hospitalizations could have been avoided. I prefer an incentivised approach to supporting our citizens towards making good decisions for the greater good of our communities. I believe that at this critical time, with our hospitals and healthcare staff being overburdened, we must prioritize the safety of our entire community by doing what is necessary to keep our healthcare system running well. Overall, this pandemic has been a tragic battle for everyone involved, whether they are a policy-maker or not.
I♥E/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?
RH/ Edmonton is my home, I love the people and I have lived here most of my life. This city has a friendly, welcoming culture unlike any other. We have a big city feel, while still maintaining a sense that everyone is your neighbour. You can find huge buildings right alongside stunning parks and a beautiful river valley. Our festivals and celebrations are world class! The vastness of our multicultural communities creates a rich sense of diversity that brings amazing talent, creativity, and resiliency to our city. Because of this, we are a hub for innovation. We are always moving forward. We are rooting ourselves in good values. I love living in Edmonton because I get to be a part of making it great with people who are doing the same thing in their own way.
I♥E/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?
RH/ Proactive; thoughtful, strategic decision-maker; listener.
Thank you, Rhiannon!
Follow along with the candidates on Twitter. See Rhiannon's Platform/Priorities HERE. Visit Rhiannon's website HERE.
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