There are now four official candidates for mayor of the city of Yellowknife in next month’s municipal election.
Bob Stewart, owner of the downtown Kilt and Castle Pub on 49th Street, has thrown his hat into the ring.
Stewart, 34, says he is qualified for the job and that a vote for him is a vote for change.
The long-time Yellowknifer says the current municipal government is not working and he says he would bring a fresh perspective and “outside the box” thinking to city hall.
“I’m somebody qualified for the position with a political science degree, ten years audit accounting experience throughout the North and senior financial analyst with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) as well as a downtown business owner,” said Stewart. “If I’m the best person for the job then it’s my responsibility to do it.”
Stewart says there is no doubt what the number one issue in Yellowknife is – dealing with the city’s homeless population and those suffering with mental health and addiction issues.
Stewart, whose business is just two doors down from the Safe Harbour Day Shelter, says he has seen the problem get steadily worse over the last five years or so.
“Most people would agree that the homelessness situation is a major crisis and I think it’s going to be a big thing on everybody’s list that’s running this year,” Stewart said. “The patchwork problem-solving that previous councils have been doing is not serving anybody and nobody’s happy with it.”
Stewart says a well-structured and well-funded plan is the way to go instead of moving the homeless from one small building to another.
Construction remains ongoing at a building on 50th Street that is to house the day shelter and a sobering centre under one roof.
Stewart wonders whether the building will be large enough to house both facilities.
He also suggests that some progressive thinking needs to take place including looking at a managed alcohol program where homeless alcoholics are administered a measured amount of alcohol each day.
The program is if effect in some Canadian cities with evidence showing that those involved in a managed alcohol program have fewer visits to the hospital, decreased interaction with police and fewer detox episodes.
Stewart would ultimately like to see treatment programs like those that are currently offered to people at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre also housed in the same facility as a sobering centre and a day shelter.
He does not think the city should fund and open its own detox and residential treatment facility similar to that in Whitehorse without financial backing from the territorial government.
Stewart thinks it would be too expensive and he believes the current model which sees NWT residents sent south for alcohol and drug rehab programs is working well.
Stewart did not want to wade too heavily into the controversy swirling around Doug Gillard, manager of the city’s Municipal Enforcement Division.
The head bylaw officer is accused of inappropriate behaviour including zooming-in closed circuit cameras on women in the public library.
Stewart questions the need for all the city-run security cameras and is opposed to the proposed idea of putting a camera at the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.
Stewart is telling voters that if they are not happy with the status quo at city hall then they should vote for him.
He will be up against current councillors Rebecca Alty and Adrian Bell as well as self-described entrepreneur Jerald Sibbeston.
The mayor’s chair went up for grabs earlier this year when current Mayor Mark Heyck announced he would not seek re-election.
The vote for mayor and council takes place on October 15th.