In her own words: Ward 4 candidate Mira Lewis

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1) Council can be divisive and public reaction to controversial decisions critical. How would you handle dissenting opinions on council or public criticism, and can we count on you to respect all opinions, whether you agree or not?

Representing people is what I do for a living and, consequently, I deal with criticism daily. I’ve come to realize that when decisions are informed by careful research, consultation with those impacted and tempered by differing views they are not difficult to defend. Dissent is necessary for growth and criticism is necessary for reflection.

2) The city is facing several major urgent infrastructure needs, such as the new recreation centre, roads in need of repaving, the central avenue replacement and aging water and sewer infrastructure. How would you prioritize what work needs to be done without breaking the bank? What do you think the top infrastructure priorities are?

The answer to this question is dependent on many factors and information I am not at present privy to. For example, are any aspects of these projects in danger of failure? Does delaying maintenance increase costs in the long run? How would delays impact residents or businesses? All of these projects are necessary but again, proper research and consultation must inform decisions.

3) One of the biggest line items in the city’s budget is the police budget. Do you support increasing or decreasing the police budget? If increasing, where will that money come from? If decreasing, where will it go?

A few years ago I was involved in a shooting in PA. I remember quite vividly the terror while waiting for the police to arrive. I don’t believe fewer police on the streets is what we need but I also know that police alone cannot solve the problems facing our city. We need to have supports in place to deal with the complex social issues such as poverty, homelessness, mental illness and addictions and programming and supports for vulnerable youth. This issue is not as simple as increasing or decreasing the police budget.

4) The city is facing rising rates of crime and poverty. While enforcement is part of the picture, so is prevention, including supporting the most vulnerable. Should the city play a bigger role in fighting poverty and homelessness? If so, how?

Yes, I believe the city should absolutely play a bigger role. I realize that finding a solution to homelessness is neither easy nor quick. In fact, taking meaningful steps on that path will require study, planning, and broad cooperation with both the provincial and federal governments. But I know other communities in Canada have successfully put such plans into motion. Medicine Hat, Alberta, managed to end homelessness within its boundaries, and I feel that Prince Albert can do the same.

While there are start-up costs associated with any such plan, many studies have shown that ending homelessness actually reduces service costs dramatically. Startup costs aimed at ending homelessness are really an investment in Prince Albert’s future.

An executive summary of the Regina plan to end homelessness notes that, “on average, one homeless person with addictions and mental health issues uses approximately $55,000 a year in health care and corrections costs alone.” This means that 55 homeless individuals cost the system more than $3 million each and every year, but no meaningful change comes to their lives from this spending — they continue to struggle without the hope of a decent future, and the annual cost continues or increases.

5) The city has come under fire recently for poor communication with residents. Do you see this as a problem? How will you address this?

This is a large part of the reason I decided to run for city council. The land deal which has sparked so much debate during this election is a clear example of why communication is essential. As a resident I continue to have no idea whether the deal was good or not and that is not okay.

Residents have a right to know what decisions are being made on their behalf and why. If elected, I would insist on proper research before any decisions are made, on proper consultation and on reporting back to the community after the decision is made. I would not rely on newspapers and obligate residents to read council minutes to know what is happening. I would set up community meetings. That may be difficult right now in person, but we are all learning more about online platforms which make meetings without social contact possible. There are also many apps designed specifically to keep interest groups communicating and the ever-trusty conference call. The most important thing is to keep trying.

6) What, to you, is the biggest issue facing the city/ward? What do you propose as a solution?

Crime, crime, crime and the social issues which lead to crime – I knocked on every door in ward 4 during this election campaign and spoke with hundreds of residents and crime reduction was mentioned in nearly every conversation. I spoke with several residents who are looking to leave the city because they are afraid to live here. I have already spoken about crime at length, so I will speak about the second issue identified on the doorsteps – community connections. Residents spoke to me repeatedly about how they don’t feel connected to the community. They want to see a community clean up in our ward, community meetings and community events such as block parties and block watch committees.

7) Why should people vote for you?

I am a principled, hard working, educated person who is not afraid of difficult conversations or heated debates. I have built a solid set of priorities, I have knocked on every door in my ward. I know what residents of ward 4 want and need and I am ready to start working towards meeting those needs.

What are your plans to improve parks/Little Red? The city has released a Little Red River Park master plan, but it’s many goals could prove costly. Meanwhile, the city’s playgrounds are also in need of an upgrade. Is improving the city’s recreation facilities a priority?

Recreation facilities are absolutely necessary, possibly more so now than ever before. I know my son was struggling when the skate park was closed in the spring and early summer. I’ve spoken with families whose children swim who are forced to travel to Saskatoon regularly because Prince Albert doesn’t have sufficient facilities. Recreation is not just for fun, recreation is necessary for health both physical and mental. We need to have facilities for our children, our seniors and everyone in between. We also need programming for every age group, ability level and budget.

Potential newcomers to any city judge it by its amenities and people with children want to know their children will be able to pursue sports where they live. Recreation facilities are not only necessary for the health of the population but also for growth.

I realize it’s impossible to do everything but recreation facilities most certainly need to be on the priority list.

COVID-19 might be spiking again, but it won’t be here forever. When this pandemic has passed us by, what role should the city play in helping businesses bounce back.

The city should play a role in helping business survive during the pandemic. The Spanish Flu lasted 3 years, we could only be at the beginning of this. Initiatives such as declaring shop local days and reminding the public about what shopping local means and what its impacts are on the community and small businesses. Assessing where taxation and utility arrangements determine the survival or failure of a business. We need to start the conversation now. Waiting for the pandemic to end won’t help anyone. We need to start having the conversation now, we need to start planning now, we to start studying the impacts now. We can’t keep sitting idle, we can’t keep saying things are provincial or federal problems.

Even when issues are in the hands of the provincial or federal government, such as health care and education, we may not be able to make actual decisions but we are a city and we can make noise, we can make demands, we can build partnerships, we can look for alternatives, we can make proposals, we can be a force to be reckoned with. I can’t imagine a lobby group more powerful than an entire city.