October 23, 2017
Leslie Claire Amminson

One of St. John’s youngest new council members, Maggie Burton received an overwhelming response in the municipal election, gaining the most votes of any candidate vying for the Councillor at Large position. We asked Maggie some questions about her first few weeks on council, her priorities for the city, and some information on how the city plans to make improvements that would benefit students.

1. What are your top priorities now that you are a member of council? What issues are you looking to tackle and what changes would you most like to make?

The first step for me is to get organized, figure out how stuff works, build relationships. I am reminding myself not to rush this, that change is possible but it is a slow process that takes a lot of hard work. I hope to make getting the ball rolling on our new Municipal Plan, Envision St. John’s, and the involved development regulations my first major project.

Helping to build a more inclusive city that prioritizes affordability and makes decisions based on neighbourhood-informed planning is important to me. Everybody should have the same easy access to healthy living options regardless of age, income or ability.

2. There is a lot of new/young blood on council. What changes do you hope to make within council? What are the top priorities of the new council as a whole? 

I plan on taking some time to determine which of the many initiatives I put forward on my platform have the most support from other councillors, city staff, and from the community before I decide which projects I want to focus on.

Transparency and accountability, increased sustainability, and better relationships with all levels of government are some of the top priorities that have started to emerge for council as a whole.

3. How do you plan to stay involved with the community while you are on council?

I am trying to work on a list of communities I haven’t connected with yet and working on how to build relationships with them. I plan on attending as many community events as possible and partnering with ward councillors on issues that affect different areas of the city.

We also need to get creative in the ways we engage with residents, and learn to listen up as much as we project out when it comes to information that’s shared between the city and residents. Listening reveals facts. It’s hard to know what goes on in a neighbourhood without talking to the people who live there!

4. How do you hope to stay engaged with students? In September we spoke to candidates about affordable housing and better transportation. Are these issues on council’s agenda/do you hope to address them?

Affordable housing and, more broadly, affordable living are issues that affect so many people in our city and are very much on council’s agenda. One of the City’s primary roles in reducing poverty is ensuring that there is an adequate supply of affordable housing.

We must make improvements to public transit – Metrobus is not currently adequately serving the needs of residents. And of course, getting around in the winter presents its own set of challenges, which is another area where more creative planning is needed.

People need to be able to navigate the City safely and practically on bicycles. Unsafe routes are dangerous for both drivers and cyclists, and impractical routes simply won’t be used. In some cases, it may be possible to significantly improve bicycle safety with only minor infrastructure changes. Safety should always be on the agenda when we plan roads.

Another initiative that will help ensure students’ issues are on the table would be ensuring a student representative sits on some key committees at City Hall. We are going to lobby for a student position on the St. John’s Transportation Commission, for example, and I want to see the role of the Youth Advisory Committee expand to have a more proactive mandate.

5. We have also looked at some issues with student voting. The ruling about having to be a resident for thirty days prior to the election created confusion for some students, especially for those living in residence. Will council look at changing this rule or making the voting process more accessible for students who may not spend the summers here?

I have some friends working on a bigger piece on electoral reform, and I want to see changes happen. Anyone who would like to get involved in this conversation (or any other issue) should get in touch with me by email at mburton@stjohns.ca or by sending me a message on Facebook, @maggieatlarge, or by calling 709-740-0982.

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