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U of R Profs in the Running for City Council

author: ethan williams | contributor

City Council
Seriously, vote. [photo by Kodak Views via Flickr]

Grade markers gunning for policy maker

Regina residents will soon be heading to the polls for the quadrennial municipal election, and among the many candidates they’ll be able to choose from, a couple of them will be University of Regina professors. City councillor Bob Hawkins has announced his intention to run for his second term in Ward 2. Hawkins is currently a faculty member at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the U of R, and served as president and vice chancellor of the university from 2005 to 2006. He feels that these positions help connect him to the work he does on City Council.

“As a faculty member, I have seen the possibilities between the University and the city working together. I believe that my familiarity with the University helps me to connect with the issues around the city.”

Hawkins also says that he has three main goals to improve Ward 2 if he is re-elected.

“We need to look at infrastructure, and mainly look at the condition of our roads. Secondly, we must ensure that taxes are kept at a reasonable level. We have a lot of senior citizens in the ward who want to stay in their homes, and keeping low taxes lets them do that. Finally, we have residents that are concerned about commercial development taking over green spaces and parks. We have to ensure that these spaces are available for residents of the community.”

Having already served a term, Hawkins also looked back at what he and the current council have done for the residents in his ward.

“We ensured that one percent of any mill rate increase was dedicated to improvement of local roads. We also hired sixteen new police officers to police our community, so that has helped with safety, and we have worked hard to ensure that taxes are kept low.”

Hawkins also praised council for their work in tackling major issues throughout the past four years including the stadium project, waste-water treatment plant, and the city employee pension plan. He also has a couple of key messages to students of the U of R living in the ward.

“Take interest in municipal politics. As a faculty member, I am aware of the issues affecting students and encourage them to vote to have a voice.”

However, Hawkins won’t be the only U of R faculty running for council. Business professor Andrew Stevens has thrown his hat into the ring for the race for councillor in Ward 3. He says he has two reasons for running in this election and one involves outgoing councillor Shawn Fraser.

“He introduced a motion to council, that kind of got kicked down, about making the city a living wage employer. Ultimately what this could mean is that if you’re doing business with the city, the subcontracting employer pays their employees a living wage, which currently stands at about $16.40 an hour, or a household income of about $58,000 a year.”

Stevens says he is a supporter of Fraser’s plan, and wanted to continue the legacy of the project by running for a seat on council. The second reason, says Stevens, is more personal.

“I’ve lived in Ward 3 and Cathedral for four years now. The ward itself is the center of a lot of cultural activities in the province, specifically Folk Fest and the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, and institutions like the Neil Balkwill Center. It’s where I live and it’s where my kids will be going to school, to the library, and the park. I want to get more involved with it.”

If elected, Stevens says that his platform will include four pillars: a Green Regina, which would include looking at sustainability and environmentalism when looking at new ideas; fixing infrastructure, specifically looking at roads and underground infrastructure in neighbourhoods and adhering to community plans; what Stevens bills as “Regina for everyone”, which focuses on affordable housing, a living wage, and ensuring accountability and the elimination of discrimination toward minorities by city police; and finally, controlling executive compensation, a topic Stevens says he has heard lots about while out campaigning.

“Yes public service workers deserve to be paid well, but considering the outgoing city manager received a compensation package of around $717,000, it suggests council needs to look critically at executive compensation.”

He also claims the city has not done enough in terms of affordable housing, an issue outlined in his platform. When asked if the city’s plan to add affordable housing where the old Mosaic Stadium currently sits would be sufficient, Stevens said he didn’t think it would be, saying the city has the wrong intentions.

“If you read the housing agenda minutes, it’s a business model for developers. I’m not sure the city has enough of a commitment to affordable housing and certainly not the root causes of it. We need to think more holistically about this being an anti poverty initiative. To suggest the stadium construction is in any way going to lead to affordable housing or anti poverty initiative is absurd.”

Johnson says that he is not using his position as a business professor to help his campaign, but he does have a message for potential U of R students living in Ward 3 who have the option of voting for him.

“I think students should pay attention to the living wage issue. They’re not just a transient population and they will face student debt. This is a opportunity for them to have an even closer encounter and relationship with political leaders.”

Reginians head to the polls on Oct. 26. Polling stations will, as always, be located around the city and will be open from 9a.m. to 8p.m.. For more information, students can visit www.electionsregina.ca.

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