Q&A with City Councillor Candidates for Ward 6

Note: Elections Regina made a mistake on a mailout to at least some Heritage residences. If you received a card saying you are in Ward 7, it is incorrect; all of Heritage is in Ward 6. Elections Regina should be sending a corrected mailout soon.

HCA invited all Ward 6 City Council candidates to participate in this Q&A. These are the responses we’ve received so far; we will update if/as more come in.

Regina is in the middle of an overdose crisis. Do you support the establishment of a supervised injection site in Regina?

Shontell Hillcoff: 100% YES! I support safe injection sites. The overdose crisis currently affects everyone worldwide, we need to start by making a difference at the Municipal level. We need to support our Community Associations and each and every individual. Injection sites will not bring the drugs into our City, they are in our City and we need to offer safety and security.

Norm Hoffert: I am not convinced without further study that safe site is the proper way to treat an overdose crisis. In other cities safe sites have led to an increase in violent and property crime and the need for high levels of police in the area. 

Dan LeBlanc: Yes. Regina should establish a supervised injection site as soon as possible. We need to do this, even if the Provincial Government refuses to support us.

Joel Murray: Yes. Supervised consumption sites have been proven time and time again to save lives and reduce harm.

Sohel Sheik: I believe having an injection site in Regina because will create a supervised medical facility providing a hygienic environment for clients to feel safe more educated and have access to more proper guidance . 

Our neighborhood and our city are experiencing frighteningly high levels of homelessness right now. Do you support investing significant municipal funds into the Plan to End Homelessness?

Hillcoff: Yes. We need to work with the Provincial and Federal governments to secure funds to offer resources to those facing mental health issues and addictions. We need to offer more funding to the Community Associations to help in this battle many are facing. Meeting so many new people and learning first hand many of the issues we are facing in the City numerous issues have been brought to my attention. One of them being a low occupancy rate in some of our already deemed low income and affordable housing. Why are we not filling these vacancies? I will ensure they are.

Hoffert: Yes. Mayor Fougere has mandated to end homelessness. There are a number of organizations that are supporting him in this endeavour. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t be in favour and support ending homelessness.

LeBlanc: Yes. The Plan’s focus on “housing first” – starting by making sure everybody has a safe place to stay – is the right one. Everyone has the right to safe, affordable, culturally appropriate housing.

Murray: The Mayor’s housing commission has been grappling with this over the last 2 years. The Federal Government is willing to match significant funds with the province and city to bring the plan to fruition. The Province is nowhere to be seen and will not match any funds. The best way to move forward is to engage the Federation of Canadian municipalities and bypass the provincial government to receive federally matched municipal funds. Regina cannot fund the complete plan alone.

Sheik: I support to invest significant municipal funds to end homelessness by treating the root causes.  I plan to create independent housings with other facilities to accommodate and treat homeless people with the support of mental health, and other problems. 

The pandemic has highlighted how important parks and recreation spaces are to our community’s well-being. Do you support investment in improving and expanding parks and recreation spaces in Regina’s inner-city?

Hillcoff: Yes, each community deserves this and desperately needs it. Our communities need safe, accessible green spaces.

Hoffert: Yes. I am aware of the parks in the inner city. Certainly would like to see them improved upon and kept in a safe, usable space that the community would be proud of and enjoy using. 

LeBlanc: Yes. Core neighbourhoods need both more parks, and better access to the parks that already exist. People should be able to get to parks without a vehicle. Once they arrive, parks should be open, welcoming spaces for people of all backgrounds and abilities. We also need to protect our existing natural spaces, including keeping commercial development out of Wascana Park.

Murray: Yes, growing up in inner-city Regina and now living in the warehouse district is a stark contrast. We need more park and open space in our communities and I will vote in favor of expanding the park/recreation budget for our citizens.

Sheik: I support investing in parks, and recreation spaces because I am a family man myself and I know how essential it is to have community parks and recreation spaces for our families to have a social space to play, walk, do activities, and connect to nature for mental-well-being.   

What ideas do you have to prevent crime and improve safety in our city?

Hillcoff: Trains running through our neighbourhoods is a huge concern to me and many constituents. We need a viable resolution to this issue. Lighting is a huge concern in so many communities. We need to support our Community Associations they are the hub between government and residents. We need to offer supports and better plans for mental health, addictions and poverty. We need to take a proactive stance rather than be reactive.

Hoffert: A few ideas I have to limit crime in areas include, a mobile neighbourhood watch, improved lighting in high crime areas, use of cameras to record crime or suspicious behaviour to help keep businesses and residents safe, and establish a more open dialogue with police to establish a more improved crime prevention in the area.

LeBlanc: Most crime is committed by desperate people. Through smart policies, the City can reduce 3 sources of desperation: addiction, poverty, and homelessness. This will make the City safer for both those directly helped, and for the rest of us.

Murray: Expanding our mental health/addictions partnerships with the health authority. I would like to see the PACT team expanded to 24/7 instead of its current 12-hour availability. Increase funding for anti-gang strategies and community outreach groups through our community grant program.

Sheik: I need to find the root problems for crime, and also create more jobs for people and our youth to have the opportunity to be part of the growing economy.    

We are in the midst of a global and local reckoning around racism, colonialism, and policing. Do you believe that police belong in schools in Regina? How do you define “defund police?” Do you believe police budgets should be cut in Regina – yes or no? Why?

Hillcoff: I believe we do need police presence at the school level. Community Resource Officers build bonds with our youth and offer resources to students that may be bullied or feeling unsafe.

[on defining ‘defund police’] I believe we need more Community resources to offer support.

NO I do not believe police budgets need to be cut. We cannot as a City afford this with the growing issues we are facing.

Hoffert: [on police in schools] As a resource for troubled children and teenagers in school, it gives them more opportunity and improved access to provide help. The police are trying to be more community orientated so this is a good place to start, in our schools.

[on defunding police] I do not believe in defunding police, they require funds to achieve our goals as mentioned above. If the community wants other resources to aid in the police it needs to be added to the budget rather than cutting from budget.

LeBlanc: [to police in schools] No. Some students and their families have good reason to be nervous about police. All families deserve to feel safe in schools, which means that police cannot be present.

[to defunding police] I define it as reducing police’s budget and influence in society. I am in favour of defunding the Regina Police Service.

Police budgets should be cut because increased spending on police does not make our city safer. We can think of better ways to use this money.

We can responsibly reduce police budgets by directing them to do less, beginning with issues of addiction and mental health. The City should employ nurses rather than police to assist people experiencing mental health emergencies or addictions.

As far as possible, we should support community-based groups like Heritage Helpers and Queen City Patrol to be our “eyes and ears in the neighbourhood”. We need to stop using police as our default option for all social issues.

Murray: [on police in schools] I believe that the choice of police in schools should rest with the appropriate school board. Some boards have chosen to keep the school resource programs and others have not.

[on defunding police] Defunding police refers to divesting funds from police and re-allocating them to community support services.

Regina currently spends 18.5% of its net municipal budget on police (below the national average of 20%). Now, we know that roughly 80% of calls for service are non-criminal in nature. As the city crafts our Community Safety and Well Being plan, I foresee recommendations that will call for investment into identified support services, as those recommendations come forward I see less of a demand for police service, and thus, a decrease in funding requirements.

Sheik: I believe police have their own boundaries and not overdue everything. Education system need more programs to educate and make better citizens to reduce criminal activities.

I believe that there can be more funding in other sectors like creating more jobs, making new roads, drug prevention centres.    

I think some police budget can be cut to develop other sectors like creating more housings for homelessness so we have no more people living on streets. More budget can be spent in education systems like having more curricular courses and activities to enhance our students’ education. 

Do you support phased-in, fare-free public transit as part of the City’s move toward 100% renewable energy by 2050?

Hillcoff: I believe we need to offer supports and programs to make City Transit affordable or free to those that need. Some don’t have the money needed to take the transit, we need to ensure proper supports are in place.

Hoffert: I don’t believe that transit can be fare free for all. Transit will need to be a way to move towards becoming a renewable and sustainable city and this will need to be paid for.

LeBlanc: Yes. Transit needs to be accessible for people who need it – especially seniors, students, and those on social assistance. On top of being accessible, transit needs to be safe and convenient. If we listen to transit users and transit operators, we can develop the bus system we all deserve.

Murray: Yes, public transit is extremely subsidized as it is. Victoria has done this in the last year and will provide a report through FCM to other cities on how to do it. On equity and inclusivity, learn from the Portland model, Include public engagement sessions that are catered toward our most vulnerable as we roll out our plan. We know that marginalized citizens experience greater challenges from climate change.

Sheik: Yes, I support this service to the public because it will make a more affordable living for many people. 

Do you support stronger enforcement of health and safety standards of rental properties?

Hillcoff: This is a concern of many residents that I have spoken with. Bylaws need to be adhered to.

Hoffert: Yes. They should be regularly inspected by health inspectors. And if a resident is found to be in deplorable conditions the city should be contacted and possibly involved with the ombudsman and ensure the landlord is brining it up to standard. It isn’t for rental properties to make landlords rich, it is to ensure residents have a proper place to live.

LeBlanc: Yes. People of all income levels have the right to safe, secure housing. In my work as a lawyer, I’ve helped several clients dealing with black mold or pests in their rental home. It is not sustainable to solve this problem “piece by piece”: Regina must do more to discourage bad landlords. Stronger enforcement of existing standards is a good first step.

Murray: Yes, HSET (Housing Standards and Enforcement Team) provides us with incredible service but many marginalized people don’t always know they exist. I believe a public education campaign would be the best way to ensure people gain access to them and have a safe home to live in. My work on the Regina appeal board allows me and the board members to hold absentee landlords accountable.

Sheik: Yes, I believe that everyone deserves to be healthy and safe in their home including myself. 

Do you support improvements to pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure such as sidewalks, pathways, green space and bike lanes?

Hillcoff: I definitely support these improvements but the integrity of our streets and the concerns of the residents need to also be listened to. There is a newly proposed bike path at the moment that is very concerning to residents in Ward 6. This is definitely something I would look into.

Hoffert: Yes to all of the mentioned within reason, where it is a priority or residents have voiced a need.

LeBlanc: Yes. The City’s infrastructure should encourage active transit. This means that bike lanes and sidewalks need to lead to necessary services; it also means that essential services (such as grocery stores) need to be built near people.

We need to do two things: improve active transit options and bring essential services closer to people. This means that City Council needs to stop supporting urban sprawl.

Murray: Yes! I love our multi-use pathways/lanes and the best news is that the transportation master plan outlines all the next steps. I will fight for a faster rollout of the plan as I have at every budget discussion.

Sheik: Yes, I support these improvements because everyone deserves to belong in their communities, feel connected to nature , and have opportunities to use the city for mental health, and physical well-being.  These spaces allow everyone to share the land peacefully with their families and others in harmony.