Election 2020: District 4

District 4 encompasses part or all of Coxheath, Westmount, Prime Brook, Sydney River and Edwardsville.

It is shaped like a hand writing with a rather blunt pen.

The district is home to 7,215 registered electors, 3,813 of whom cast ballots in 2016. Steve Gillespie captured 1,325 of them to win quite handily  — his nearest opponent had 745 votes.

Gillespie, who defeated four opponents in 2016, is re-offering and will face just two challengers this year.

CBRM District 4 Map

 

 

Steve Gillespie

Steve Gillespie

Steve Gillespie

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment as a councilor?

I have two:

1/ the elimination of the controversial $140.00 a week travel allowance for councilors and subsequent transparent online reporting of expenses.

2/ the role I played in the building of Cape Breton’s first fully accessible play park in Cantley Village

What do you hope to accomplish in a second term?

1/ Have an open conversation on term limits for councilors and mayor.

2/ Reopen the 1995 Amalgamation Agreement and request better services and a fair share of infrastructure spending for the old County of Cape Breton residents

Do you think large, “silver-bullet” projects like the container terminal are the answer for local economic development, or are there other approaches?

Yes and no.

Yes, we need to think big, because even if the Hail Mary projects don’t succeed they are worth exploring because they may lead to other ideas and projects that will. Who would have thought the cruise-ship business could have been so big? Or that the Port of Sydney could have needed a second birth? Who would have thought the relocation of NSCC Marconi Campus, an $80 million plus project, was possible?

I believe in the container terminal project and will continue to support it. But we must also do everything we can to foster and grow small businesses and open our business parks to manufacturing opportunities in the emerging sectors such as cannabis, technology and exports. Sometimes the big ideas lead us down a road we would have never taken to see things we would have not seen.

Sam-I-Am, Dr. SeussWhere is one place in your district you always bring visitors?

Petersfield Park in Westmount, it truly is one of our most beautiful places for a walk in CBRM.

I also bring visitors to Membertou and show how our First Nations community has become an economic driver and a strong and valued partner in the growth and prosperity of our region.

What is one question you wish I’d asked you?

“Councilor Steve…. do you like green eggs and ham, well do you Councilor Steve-I-Am?”

“Yes, yes, I do like green eggs and ham. I do, I do,” says Councilor Steve-I-Am.

 

Yianni Harbis

Yianni Harbis

Yianni Harbis

Why do you want to be a CBRM councilor?

I always wanted to get into politics. Having young children who will grow up in District 4 and, more importantly, Cape Breton, made me realize that there will never be a better time. Working as a branch and commercial manager at a local institution that is engrained within the eco-system of community and the Antigonish Movement also amplified my desire. I believe my education, experience and energy will complement council. Having lived in different municipalities in Canada and Europe has allowed me a perspective I would likely not have if I were born, educated and lived in one place my entire life.

What is one issue of concern to you and what is your plan to address it?

We face many challenges in the CBRM. However, the effect of the diminishing population could become insurmountable. What isn’t typically mentioned is the strain on mental health because of a stagnant economy and population decline. A diminishing tax base creates a need to change the status quo! Population increase would create a broader tax base, economic growth and development, a higher level of innovative ideas and ensure diversity, especially in areas of culture and religion.

How do we address it?

First, we need to understand that the municipality cannot effectively resolve our issues alone and collaboration, partnerships and investment from institutions, community stakeholders, the private sector along with government are required moving forward. Cape Breton University is a great example of a successful undertaking to show what is possible. How do we create programs and policies to effectively support this growth? Second, we need to ensure we see councilors as both a voice for their district but for a regional government, it must be toward a common vision. Finally, we need a strategic plan, it must be prioritized and take into consideration the vast array of priorities, discussion papers and studies that have already been completed and engage with the community. For me, it must address tax modification, both residential and commercial, a regional economic development plan, and a Municipal Charter. We must shift our thinking from what we deserve to present solid business cases to provincial and federal entities that state unequivocally the links to their strategies and thus the inherent benefits to a proposal.

Although it is now 25 years old, the CBRM doesn’t necessarily function as a single entity. Do you have any ideas for bringing our “community of communities” closer together?

We need to work with stewards of all communities to bring our unique circumstance toward a common solution. This involves all community stakeholders, local institutions, Mi’kmaq leaders and the municipality to create an identity that spreads island wide. I do believe firmly that we must build around the infrastructure that is incoming and ensure we do not make decisions independent of another. To that end, Social Capital needs to be established towards a new tomorrow.

What is one place in your district you always bring visitors?

My favorite place is a toss-up between Alderdale Greens and Petersfield Park, depending on the visitor. The golf course is a quick nine holes that is well maintained and now has a driving range! The park is engrained within the cultural history from the late 18th century for District 4. It also is full of trails, views and areas to relax with the kids and watch them play.

What is one question you wish I’d asked you?

I was actually asked a great question through email that I really liked, so, I’ll go with that: “If you were the Emperor of the CBRM; what would the Region transition to?”

If I was an emperor… I would want the gear that Tom Cruise had during “The Last Samurai”

Kidding aside and broadly speaking I would have the following:

We would follow models such as Emilia-Romagna where government, private sector and social purpose organizations, such as cooperatives, work together toward a common agenda. We would build an eco-system of like-minded organizations and resilient community stakeholders in partnership with provincial endeavors and the private sector to generate more of a circular economy/reciprocal business practices toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. Ultimately, building capacity and resiliency. Cooperatives and industry that conduct business differently with a social or environmental purpose would also be mentioned in the CBRM Charter to engage government in policies to build healthy societies, just, and humane futures for our children. It is my thought that while individuals argue corporate capitalism is the only way forward, inequalities increase, and societies are being undermined by free market systems. This is certainly not to suggest that the individual entrepreneur or business should not prosper should they earn it through hard work and perseverance, but not at the current gap we have and high poverty and unemployment levels.

Based on the current structure we have with the REN [Regional Enterprise Network] I offer the following (because I am not an emperor):

  • We need a clear overall strategic plan with deliverables and to be guided by that from a decision-making perspective.
  • While we may not always agree, we must be committed to the process.
  • Utilize provincial endeavors as on opportunity to build around the infrastructure provided, creating incentives, and policy to benefit those organizations.
  • Requirement to move forward on the CBRM Charter.
  • Engage in the true community leaders and activists; the Viability Study left a lot to be desired in the Community Economic Development aspect, however, was quite clear on other costly endeavors that need to change.
  • Concentrate on controllable factors.
  • Re-allocation of monies toward recreation and community projects, empowering citizenship.
  • Understand that economies, environment, social challenges are complex and always changing.
  • Understand that culture change and progression is not easy toward resilient communities.

 

Donalda Johnson

Donalda Johnson

Donalda Johnson

Why do you want to be a CBRM councilor?

I am campaigning to become councilor for District 4, CBRM, because I wish to help build a more prosperous community to attract commercial investment, diversify the economy, create jobs and expand amenities to enrich the quality of life for our residents.

What is one issue of concern to you and what is your plan to address it?

I have several issues of concern.

One issue of concern is to ensure CBRM receives its fair share of federally- provincially dispersed Equalization Payments. EP payments to Nova Scotia from the federal government are about $2 billion for 2020-21. There is no transparency requirement for the province to account for how they spend the money and insure it is spent properly. This lack of transparency requirement by the federal government is a major flaw in the program’s dispersal of funds. CBRM can use our substantial fair share of this fund to pay for our needs to maintain quality services.

Action Plan: Council to establish a special committee, consisting of council members, the public, elected members and interested opposition members of the provincial and federal governments, the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, to meet and collaborate to “Go Get This Revenue.” The “have provinces” who pay for the EP have also indicated they want changes to the program. Transparency of how the funds are dispersed at the provincial level and a federal review panel must be established to insure the program is administered properly.

Although it is now 25 years old, the CBRM doesn’t necessarily function as a single entity. Do you have any ideas for bringing our “community of communities” closer together?

We can help unite the various communities in the CBRM by expanding the bus transit system to connect with all the communities in the CBRM and ensure that bus shelters are set up for comfort. As we create more jobs, people without cars will be able to get to work and more people can visit the other communities.

What is one place in your district you always bring visitors?

I bring people in my district to visit my cousins.

What is one question you wish I’d asked you?

Request Voters to not be influenced by “Unofficial Private, Pre- Election Polls.” This straw poll is not verifiable and is meant to persuade you to vote in a certain direction. Vote for who “who” you want to vote for.

 

A note on this feature:

I decided to send candidates questions by email because, while speaking to each in person would be preferable, I knew I wouldn’t have time to conduct (and transcribe) 55 phone interviews.

 

And finally…

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