By Tim Kalinowski on September 18, 2021.
Incumbent Ryan Parker has declared his intention to run for his eighth term on city council this fall. Parker was first elected to council when he was just 23-years-old.
“Over the years my values have always stayed the same,” Parker told reporters on Friday. “I am who I am based on how my family has raised me, but your ideology does shift. When you are 23 you don’t know the importance of having parks for your kids. You don’t understand the importance of daycare. You don’t know the importance of health care. Because when you are 23 you are somewhat naive.
“But over the years my high school sweetheart and I have raised two beautiful boys, and I am seeing the importance of the services the city offers. And when I say services, it’s more than just pools and ice rinks, but parks, the transit- all those little things that are the big things. I think that is the focus of this campaign: all the little things are the big things.”
Parker reflected on an, at times, contentious term on city council these past four years where he often found himself on the minority side of the vote on issues like the local mandatory masking bylaw debate this past summer, (although he supports current provincial health measures), and the supervised consumption site.
“I think the safe consumption site wasn’t operated properly in our community, and I think that played a major role in drawing a lot of the crime in our community,” he stated. “The numbers don’t lie. Could it have been operated differently? Sure. But I was firmly against how it was being operated, and I stand by that record.”
Parker had initially approved the revised 2020 operating budget, which included a $500,000 cut to parks funding, and proposed changes to transit as recommended by the KPMG report, but said, upon reflection, council had made mistakes on both issues. He would seek to rectify that if re-elected this fall.
“Council cut the (Parks) funding back last budget cycle, and I think we made a mistake,” he said. “We tried to reallocate those funds back in (earlier this fall), but it was defeated. I think it’s time the new council reinvests in putting more money into our parks, our trails. There is no reason why Joe-citizen or Mrs. Smith should be out there having to pull weeds.”
On the issue of moving to CityLink and transit-on-demand, Parker stated:
“I think council has dropped the ball. I think we really need to start with a bottom-up approach. We need to actually talk to the users and understand it is more than just transit: it is also a social service in our community. I think it is something people value even though they don’t use it. They understand that transit is something very much-needed in our community for the greater good.”
While his views have changed on both those issues, Parker stated there were areas where his views have not budged an inch: wanting to restore funding to the police budget and standing up for the interests of homeowners and business owners when it comes to rezoning for proposed supportive housing developments in the community.
“At the end of the day, I believe that the homeowners and business owners that are around those proposed facilities should have a bigger say on what happens because they are the ones that originally invested in that area,” he stated. “I believe when you are going to do developments like that you are better off to do it in clear brownfield where you have no development, but is still close to social services. Because you just can’t throw these types of facilities in a place of residential neighbourhoods and not expect backlash.”
Parker said he was proud of what city council had accomplished the last four years in leveraging provincial and federal dollars to construct the ATB Centre, getting work started on the Exhibition Park expansion, and beginning much-need renovations on the airport. However, Parker said he felt it was now time to “freeze” City capital funding for non-essential infrastructure over the next five to six years to give taxpayers “a breather,” and to use some of those capital dollars to reinvest in what the city already has rather than build new City-only funded facilities.
“We built a beautiful house,” he summarized. “Let’s take care of the house that we own.”
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