What is a platform, anyway?

What comes to mind when you hear the word platform? For many people, it's probably something like "foundation," or "base" - in other words, something solid and unchanging. Something set in stone. 

I've always preferred the other meaning of the word platform: a jumping off point. I don't think platforms should be end products, I think they should be works in progress. Starting places. Things to be built upon. After all, an olympic diver doesn't end on their platform - they begin there.

So that's what this page is: my jumping off point. Below are some of the issues that I consider to be important, and my thoughts on them. But I really want to hear from you, the residents of District 9. What issues most affect you? Where do your priorities lie? My hope is that as I learn more about what you think really matters, this page will change, and grow, and evolve - just like a platform should.

The Issues

COVID-19

Thankfully, Nova Scotia has been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic so far - in large part due to the diligence and cooperation of our citizens in working to contain the virus. Unfortunately, we're not out of the woods yet. We face not just the threat of another outbreak, but also a potentially long and painful economic recovery. I believe that city council has a vital role to play in helping us all overcome these challenges.

In the present, our number one priority has to be maintaining public health and safety. Here we all have a role to play, by doing things like wearing masks, avoiding large indoor gatherings, and maintaining proper social distancing. However, individual action isn't enough on its own: we also need strong, evidence-based policy from the council. We face a complex and rapidly changing situation, and now more than ever it's essential that we follow the latest scientific research, and use that to inform our decisions.

Going forward, the city needs to do everything it can to help out those who have been affected by the pandemic. I support initiatives like the council's current project to reduce red tape - now more than ever we need to ensure we aren't preventing small businesses from getting started by saddling them with unnecessary regulations. However, fundamentally I believe our approach has to be firmly rooted in compassion: those who need help should get it. Whether this will take the form of tax relief, or municipal grants, or some other form of support, I'm not sure - but you can know that I'll be making this a top priority no matter what.

 
 

Transit and Traffic

HRM faces two very difficult challenges when it comes to managing traffic: a growing population, and strong geographical bottlenecks. Nowhere is this more evident than in District 9. For a large portion of the district, the only ways on or off of the peninsula are through traffic-clogged streets like Herring Cove Road and St. Margaret's Bay Road. And expanding capacity on these streets is difficult - in the case of Herring Cove, we have a sheer cliff face on one side of the road, and the homes of families on the other.

 

In other words, we're stuck between a rock and a yard place.

However, I believe these challenges can be overcome - it will just take a collective effort. The city has a role to play here, by working hard to improve transit and adding more bike lanes (I support efforts like the Rapid Transit Strategy that the current council has approved). Local businesses also have a role to play, by allowing flexible work hours to smooth out traffic peaks, and encouraging employees to work from home whenever possible. And yes, citizens have a role to play as well: by walking or biking to work whenever possible, or by making an effort to carpool with their neighbours whenever they can.

Ultimately, I believe we need to recognize that cars aren't going away anytime soon - they're simply the only viable solution for a large fraction of the population. However, there's still a huge amount that can be done to move towards a future where we don't all rely on single occupancy vehicles to get us to and from our places of work.

 

A truly green Halifax

During my time as a research scientist I learned a lot about renewable energy, and what I learned more than anything is that the world is complicated. Oftentimes things that seem like good solutions aren't necessarily good solutions after all, once you look into them. I want to use the expertise that I've developed to bring a passionate but critical eye to the council, so that we can implement truly realistic and effective policies.

Sometimes this will mean going ahead with the obvious strategies: I support the current initiative to shift our transit system over to using electric buses, because it makes scientific and environmental sense. Other times it will mean pushing back against things that might seem green - for instance, on a provincial level I think tidal power has only a minor role to play in our future energy supply.

Make no mistake - we're facing a climate emergency, and urgent action is needed. No matter what policies I support, you can be sure that I truly care about making Halifax a greener place, and that I'll be an unwavering advocate for renewable energy.

 

Justice and police reform

Here, I'm simply not sure what to say.

I can tell you that I believe the system right now is fundamentally unjust. I can tell you that I believe we need an overhaul of police culture, because people simply aren't receiving equal treatment. But ultimately, I just don't know what it's like.

So this is where I most want to hear from you. This where I most want a conversation.

Do I think that we need to defund the police? Right now I still say no. I worry that defunding the police would only lead to worse outcomes for our most vulnerable populations, and I believe that what we really need are things like better training, different recruitment strategies, and much stronger efforts to ensure that police are held accountable for their actions. But I'm open to having my mind changed, and I hope that we can have an honest, genuine debate about the subject.

No matter what, one thing is clear: we need to do better as a society, and this will be one of my top priorities as a council member.

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© 2020 by Stephen Foster