Moose FM’s Ollie Williams and Jesse Wheeler sit down with Steve Payne, a candidate in Yellowknife’s 2015 municipal election.
More: Steve Payne’s election website
Other candidates: Find more Moose FM Q&As
JW: What’s the biggest issue facing the city?
SP: It’s the same for everybody: homelessness, the cost of living is huge. We’ve got to try to fix our problems up here and it’s got to be done soon.
OW: The question is: how? Appreciating that it’s a bigger problem than any one individual and it may be a bigger problem than city council, what effect could you have as a councillor?
That’s a tough question. It’s been a couple of years that people have been trying to deal with homelessness. I don’t think anybody has the one true answer, but definitely better relations between all levels of government – city, territorial, federal, even the bands. Get everybody working together on one issue. There are a hundred different reasons why people are out on the streets so we have to come together as a group. Maybe City Hall can be that one level of government that’s going to initiate change.
OW: You get three years at it if you’re elected. What is one thing you would hope to achieve?
One thing? To make the city more affordable. A lot of people are struggling. It’s hard for a single mom with kids up here to make ends meet. I’ve had two jobs pretty-much the whole time that I’ve lived up here. I have to do it because I want a comfortable life for my family. We need to make it more comfortable for people. If this is a good place to live, if people can afford to live here, our population is going to increase. Right now, it’s flat-lining.
OW: Let’s talk 50-50 lot. What would you want to happen there?
I’d want it sold. And in the meantime, between now and selling it, put a parking booth and some parking in there. I think it was a bad purchase and I think it was an over-inflated price for that lot. It’s a little bit disappointing – I think a lot of people in town feel the same way.
OW: But is it not the city’s responsibility to take a lead on the downtown? That was the rationale when they bought it. Is there some merit to that?
I think the city’s main responsibility is providing services. We are in fairly tough economic times up here. Maybe now is not the time to take on big projects like that. If our tax base was higher and we had lots of money coming in, that’s a good idea. We just came from Whitehorse and Whitehorse is definitely set up for people from out of town, it’s a tourist spot. It’s nice to see what they’ve done. I’m sort-of applying what they have to us, and it would be nice to have a cultural centre like theirs. They have a really good relationship with the First Nations over there and it’d be nice to see something like that here as well – I’m just not sure of the timing. Upcoming is going to be the Canada Games bid and we have a lot of money potentially going out, just not a lot of money going in.
OW: Would you want to see the end of the Canada Games bid?
I need to see more information. Typically, in the North, if you take something that is supposed to be $5 it’s going to be $10 or $15. I need to see what they have planned for relationships with the government. I’ve heard there’s a potential relationship with the housing corporation to get some housing that can be used for the Games as well. I know we need a new pool, that’s a definite, and these Games would push that pool construction way up. It’s a tough one. I’m not saying I’m against it, I’m just not saying I’m for it right now.
OW: I want to ask about IServeU. What do you think about it?
To me it’s a foreign concept. Most people out there vote somebody in because they don’t want to have to mess with making those decisions. Not that they can’t make them – everybody has their opinion on things – but with this IServeU thing going on, I’m really not sure about it. I was approached about running as an IServeU candidate and I did think about it, but it wasn’t for me. I want to be able to make those decisions from what I feel, from talking to the people that voted me in. I will always listen to the people. To me, there are some holes in that whole system and it can work really well or it can be disastrous.
OW: So you want to listen to all the people but play a joker occasionally and say, actually, the majority is wrong here?
The council are given information that the public is not. The council has done a good job in the last term here. There have been some decisions that people don’t feel comfortable with but they do have all the information and people sitting in front of a keyboard are privy to just a small amount. You can’t make an accurate decision when you’re only given half the information.
OW: I imagine you don’t really do door-to-door campaigning, do you? You just wait for them to come to you at Ragged Ass Barbers…
I probably have an advantage over most. People come sit in my chair, I get to talk to people and they get to voice their concerns. I’ve really been campaigning for the last year. I made this decision after the last election – I just wanted to turn 40 first. I did that in February so this was my year to run.
OW: Having had that year of listening, are there issues out there that you think are not being picked up?
One of the biggest problems that people have is garbage collection. Right now, everybody is given the same amount of garbage they can throw out per week – it doesn’t matter if you’re a family or one or a family of eight. People get pretty passionate about garbage. I think we heard a lot of dissent about the composting – and people still refusing to do it – but it has made my life easier and you teach your kids to compost, take care of the environment, stuff like that. It’s a win for everybody. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to offer different-sized garbage cans. These trucks can pick up bigger cans and a lot of people have them.
OW: If you had 60 seconds to make the pitch to people that it’s worth having you on council, what separates you out from the crowd?
There are some really good people running and it’s too bad that everybody can’t get in. I know most of the candidates personally. It’s going to be a learning experience and one thing I can say is I will listen to the people. I’m not really afraid to stir the pot. I’m not going to offend anybody but some tough issues are going to have to be questioned and I don’t mind being the person to question them. I’m feeling good about this run for council – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I hope I get the opportunity.