By Tim Kalinowski on October 7, 2021.
City council candidate Robin Walker says in order for the city to accomplish big things it has to start thinking small.
Thinking small, in this context, is about thinking local, and about what we can do as a community to address the issues we have with the resources we’ve got without relying on the province or federal government to deliver for us, says Walker.
He gives the example of the homelessness issue facing the city to explain his point.
“One solution I am somewhat inspired by is the City of Winnipeg is doing what they call the Village Project where they are putting in a tiny home village in their downtown, and it’s mostly targeted toward their Indigenous homeless population,” he explains.
“They have ascertained their homeless are perhaps 80 per cent Indigenous, and so this tiny village would also incorporate Indigenous healing modalities.”
Walker says the same “small” thinking can be applied to small business support and development in the city. He says Lethbridge city council should consider setting up a micro-financing bank fund where small loans can be given out to local businesses at low interest to assist with some of their day to day needs coming out of the province-wide recession and the COVID crisis.
“If it’s borrowing, the money will come back,” he says.
Walker, who is a Mason with Charity Lodge No. 67 and a real estate appraiser with a marketing/ accountancy background, also believes in local neighbourhood enhancement over mega projects.
Thinking small again, Walker says his capital priority if elected would be building up micro-amenities in Lethbridge neighbourhoods.
Rather than large-scale projects like a new performing arts centre, why not use the same capital to build multiple small local community halls, new spray parks and community garden spaces, Walker asks.
“When you look at neighbourhood amenities, the new YMCA is beautiful over on the westside,” he says. “I am not saying we need to be building a structure like that, but maybe projects on a smaller scale so each neighbourhood can have something. It’s easier to afford, and you can start with a couple, and go along. And as the city grows, you can even zone stuff in.”
Walker, who identifies as half Cree and half Metis but was raised by an adoptive family, says he also believes in Indigenous-led approaches, again on a local scale, to many of the city’s social issues.
“I had a great upbringing, but really no connection to my (Indigenous) culture,” he states. “Just over two years ago, I found my birth mom on Facebook and reconnected with her. I started to get to know more about the cultural history and practices of Metis and Cree (peoples). It has made me more sympathetic to what is going on with the Indigenous population in Lethbridge. I feel for those that are struggling whether it is with homelessness or drugs that some sort of Indigenous-led solution might be a better fit than maybe some of the other institutions and what-not that we are trying to use to alleviate these issues.”
Walker says in this respect a proposed Indigenous cultural centre would offer opportunities for ceremony and self-healing among Lethbridge’s urban Indigenous population.
But it’s not only about celebrating local Indigenous culture, he states, it’s about celebrating more together as a city all the diversity we have.
“We need more awareness and more celebration of the different cultures we have here,” Walker states.
“I know there are certain events that happen, and we can have smaller (local) events as well just to get more people engaged and learning about it.
“I think the purpose of council is to represent the citizens of the city,” he adds. “It’s a microcosm of what the city is. For it to do that, it needs to be representative of the city, and it needs to include the same sorts of diversity the city is composed of. I would like to think I would help to bring that diversity to council with my own background and perspective I have, and my willingness to listen to any and all of our citizens’ concerns.”
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