This year’s municipal elections haven’t been the typical elections that have happened every year, offering little chance of change from the status quo.
In this election, we have seen an unprecedented diversity in candidates, and we have seen candidates speak clearly in support of issues that directly affect residents across our municipality, and not just property developers and large landlords.
The tremendous victory of Lindell Smith in District 8 (Halifax Peninsula North) tonight means that not only will District 8 (Peninsula North) have an amazing representative of their community, but the African Nova Scotian community that is such an important part of our city and our province has finally regained a voice on our municipal council.
It speaks poorly of our city’s commitment to diversity that until Lindell Smith’s historic and overwhelming victory tonight, Graham Downey was the only African Nova Scotian to have ever sat on Halifax Regional Council throughout our city’s history. It has been sixteen years since Graham Downey was on Halifax Council, and there have never been any other Black members of Council.
It was tremendous in this election to see diverse candidates who actually reflect and represent the diversity of residents throughout our communities.
Candidates like Lindell Smith, Carlos Beals, Shelley Fashan, Iona Stoddard and others have inspired countless people in our communities who have otherwise been disengaged and alienated from our municipal government.
We hope to see these newly-inspired residents remain involved. And we hope to see our city take proactive steps to ensure that their voices are heard and taken seriously.
Our municipal government has a strong role to play in ensuring that issues of diversity and equity are prioritized and that systemic racism is challenged by removing barriers faced by marginalized communities.
In my campaign, I have focused on issues affecting some of the most vulnerable residents in our community. We have focused on low income tenants, transit-dependent residents, seniors, students and people with unstable and unaffordable housing.
Across our city, and throughout Dartmouth Centre, people are struggling. Our neighbours are choosing between feeding their families and heating their homes. Many in our community have no access to safe and affordable housing, cannot find work, and cannot afford to access key services like transit and child care.
I have focused on ensuring that our city’s public transit and recreation programs are free, and where rent control ensures safe and affordable housing for all. My campaign has explicitly called for racism and sexism to be actively challenged in our community. We have campaigned for fair wages for workers in our municipality, and for a city dedicated to addressing climate change and building a sustainable economy.
When the average winning candidates for our Regional Council receive a third of their campaign contributions from developers, it’s hard to believe that the concerns of the average person matter as much as the interests of the development industry.
In the months and years after elections are held, it is very reasonable for residents of our city to concerned about real or potential bias when those same developers come in front of our Regional Council to ask for zoning and bylaw exemptions that would directly profit developers.
In the weeks and months ahead, I and Solidarity Halifax, the organization that I belong to and which provided the organizational support to my campaign, will continue to campaign around these issues and fight for real and meaningful change.