Sarah Hamilton

Candidate for councillor in sipiwiyiniwak

Sarah Hamilton

People's Agenda

Taproot asked candidates to complete a 30-question survey based on what we heard when we asked what key issues people wanted the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes in the 2021 municipal election. Candidates who completed the survey also had the opportunity to share their pitch to voters.

Jump to pitch


Survey responses

Here are Sarah Hamilton's survey responses, organized by category:


Economy

How much should the city spend to help local business recover from the pandemic?

Current support is sufficient

  • It should spend more
  • Current support is sufficient
  • It should spend less
  • I don't have a position on this issue

City council approved $5.3 million in financial support for local businesses in June 2020. The funds, which have already supported nearly 2,000 individual businesses, will continue to be available until funding is fully utilized.

Is the city's current approach to encouraging economic diversification heading in the right direction?

Yes, we have effective initiatives in place

  • Yes, we have effective initiatives in place
  • No, the city should put more resources behind nurturing homegrown businesses
  • No, the city should put more resources behind attracting global businesses
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The city currently spends more to support local businesses than to attract businesses from elsewhere. The city spends about $30 million per year to support small businesses, Business Improvement Areas, Explore Edmonton, and Innovate Edmonton. It spends about $3.1 million per year to support industrial businesses and investors, half of which is allocated to Edmonton Global, the region's economic development agency.

Do you support the Downtown Vibrancy Strategy released in June?

Yes, at the current level of investment

  • Yes, and we should fully fund the plan
  • Yes, at the current level of investment
  • No, we have already spent enough on downtown
  • No, I support investment in downtown but not this plan
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The Downtown Vibrancy Strategy is "a call for action" to support the recovery of Edmonton's downtown from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2015, more than $4.4 billion has been invested in downtown development, but downtown has "faced unique challenges" due to the pandemic. While the strategy could require between $7 million and $28 million to fully implement, council approved an initial investment of $5 million.


Environment

What do you think of the Community Energy Transition Strategy and action plan?

It's a strong plan; we just need to follow it

  • It's a good start but we need to go farther to reach our goals
  • It's a strong plan; we just need to follow it
  • The action items are too expensive
  • Climate action is not the responsibility of the city
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The city first approved the Community Energy Transition Strategy in 2015 to tackle climate change. This year, city council revised the strategy to include targets aligned with the Paris Agreement. Implementing the plan will require $24 billion in public and private investment over the next 10 years. Without action, the strategy suggests that more frequent and intense weather events could reduce Edmonton's GDP by $3.2 billion annually by the 2050s.

Should effects on the climate be taken into account in every decision city council makes?

Yes for some decisions but not all

  • Yes, every decision has climate implications
  • Yes for some decisions but not all
  • No, most decisions don't have climate implications
  • I don't have a position on this issue

While climate resilience is one of the four strategic goals in ConnectEdmonton, the city's strategic plan for 2019-28, most of the city's decisions do not take climate change into account directly. The Community Energy Transition Strategy includes an action for the city to monitor and report on the carbon budget and to integrate a carbon accounting framework into all operating and capital budgeting decisions and priority setting by 2022.

Do you think city council should have approved the Epcor's E.L. Smith Solar Farm?

Yes

  • Yes
  • No, I support solar power but that's the wrong location
  • No, I don't support solar power anywhere
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The E.L. Smith Solar Farm was approved by city council in October 2020. The project would create a roughly 51-acre solar farm adjacent to the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant. The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition has filed a legal challenge against council's decision, arguing that the "this development should not happen at the expense of the river valley."


Finances

What do you think the city's main fiscal challenge is?

The city spends its resources inefficiently

  • City council hasn't been willing to raise taxes enough
  • The city has limited ability to raise revenues
  • The city spends too much
  • The city spends its resources inefficiently
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In Alberta, municipalities are generally not allowed to run budget deficits, which means city council must make difficult decisions at budget time. Property taxes, which some consider regressive, provide roughly 57% of the city's $3 billion in revenue each year. Beyond raising taxes, council must generally focus on managing expenses, by spending less or trying to find efficiencies.

What do you think of the city's revenue split between residential and business taxes?

Residences should pay more

  • The current mix is acceptable
  • Residences should pay more
  • Businesses should pay more
  • Both should pay less, even if that means a reduction of services
  • I don't have a position on this issue

Roughly half of the property tax the city collects each year comes from residential property owners and half comes from businesses. The tax rate is two to three times higher for businesses than for residences, because businesses account for only about a quarter of the assessment base.

What do you think of the size of the city's workforce?

The city has about the right number of employees

  • The city has about the right number of employees
  • The city has too many employees
  • The city has too few employees
  • I don't have a position on this issue

According to the city auditor, the City of Edmonton has about 12,000 employees. From 2010 to 2014, the city's workforce grew consistently with Edmonton's population, but since 2016, population growth has outpaced the growth of the workforce.


Housing and homelessness

How should the city approach the provision of affordable housing?

The city cannot afford to build more affordable housing without financial support from other orders of government

  • The city should build more affordable housing, even if it can't get funding from other orders of government
  • The city cannot afford to build more affordable housing without financial support from other orders of government
  • The city should not build more affordable housing regardless of financial support from other orders of government
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The Affordable Housing Investment Plan aims to build 2,500 units of affordable housing and 600 units of supportive housing by 2022 at an estimated cost of about $500 million, funded by all three orders of government. As of May 2021, the city was about halfway to its goal. Earlier this year the city was denied federal funding to build more housing units due to a lack of provincial funding to operate them.

Should the city expand its Housing First programs?

No, the existing programs are sufficient

  • Yes, Housing First is the right approach and we need more of it
  • No, the existing programs are sufficient
  • No, residents should undergo treatment for underlying issues such as substance use and mental illness before participating in housing programs
  • No, this shouldn't be the city's responsibility
  • I don't have a position on this issue

Housing First involves moving people who experience homelessness into independent and permanent housing as quickly as possible, with no preconditions. Those individuals are then provided with additional supports and services as needed. Since 2009, more than 12,000 people have been housed and supported through Edmonton's Housing First program.

How should the city address encampments?

The current policy towards encampments is acceptable

  • The current policy towards encampments is acceptable
  • Encampments should be allowed if there are no better housing options available
  • Encampments should be dismantled immediately
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The City of Edmonton's Encampment Response Team (ERT) works in partnership with housing agencies and the police to determine whether encampments are low or high risk and what further action is taken. In 2020, the ERT received more than 4,000 complaints about encampments and dismantled 1,477. In April 2021, city council endorsed a new encampment strategy intended to ensure a housing-focused, compassionate response.


Planning

Which statement best describes your opinion of city council's zoning decisions?

Council has shown the right amount of flexibility regarding zoning bylaws

  • Council has shown the right amount of flexibility regarding zoning bylaws
  • Council has been too flexible under pressure from developers
  • Council has not been flexible enough to make way for development
  • I don't have a position on this issue

Upzoning is when developers seek a variance to build extra height or units than existing plans allow, with the goal of making a project more financially feasible. City council has been accused of too often approving upzoned projects, such as the now-cancelled Mezzo tower in Old Strathcona, without getting anything in return. To address this, the Community Amenity Contributions policy was approved in July 2018 to establish public benefits to be provided by developers in exchange for a variance.

Do you support the city's current approach to infill?

Yes

  • Yes
  • No, primarily because it harms the character of mature neighbourhoods
  • No, primarily because it allows too much gentrification
  • No, primarily because it interferes with market forces
  • I don't have a position on this issue

Edmonton's Infill Roadmap 2018 contains 25 actions intended to help welcome more people and homes into the city's older neighbourhoods. As of 2021, the roadmap is two-thirds complete, with work on the remaining nine actions already underway. After 2022, infill initiatives will be advanced through implementation of the City Plan, which targets that 50% of new housing units be added through infill city-wide.

How should council bring the 15-minute districts described in the City Plan to life?

Council should rely mostly on zoning decisions to support their creation

  • Council should use every tool at its disposal, including financial penalties and incentives
  • Council should rely mostly on zoning decisions to support their creation
  • Council should not intentionally create 15-minute districts
  • I don't have a position on this issue

A key component of the City Plan is the creation of districts that allow people to easily complete their daily needs, such as getting to work, picking up groceries, going to the park, or running errands, within a 15-minute travel time by walking, cycling, or riding transit.


Police

Which statement best captures your beliefs about racism and the Edmonton Police Service?

The candidate chose not to answer

  • Systemic racism is apparent throughout the EPS
  • The EPS is not racist on the whole, but there are some racist members
  • There is no racism within the EPS
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In June of 2020, city council heard from dozens of speakers during three days of public hearings on racism and policing. The Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force, which was set up in response, identified a number of longstanding problems with policing in Edmonton that it attributed to systemic racism and discrimination, and made 14 recommendations to root out the problems. Black Lives Matter Edmonton went further, calling on the city to defund the police.

What should be done about the police budget?

The candidate chose not to answer

  • Increase it as determined by the funding formula
  • Freeze it until it is in line with comparable cities
  • Decrease it somewhat
  • Defund the police altogether
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The city spends about $450 million or 15% of its annual budget on policing. The funding formula approved in 2018 ensures the police budget increases each year based on population growth and inflation. According to the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force's final report, "Edmonton spends more per person on policing than many comparable cities in Canada."

When police request funding for capital projects, how should council respond?

The candidate chose not to answer

  • Council should trust the police to know what they need and generally approve their requests
  • Council should closely scrutinize all requests
  • Council should not approve any further funding requests from police
  • I don't have a position on this issue

Funding requests from the police for capital projects are considered by city council alongside other capital projects. The Edmonton Police Service requested capital funding of $122 million for six growth projects as part of its 2019-2022 capital budget, $82 million of which was for a new firearms facility that was not approved. It also requested funding for renewal projects, much of which council approved, including the purchase of the Air-2 helicopter.


Politics and governance

Should candidates disclose their donors?

Yes, after the election

  • Yes, before the election
  • Yes, after the election
  • They shouldn't have donors
  • They shouldn't have to disclose donors at any point
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In July 2020, the UCP government instituted campaign finance rules that no longer require candidates to reveal their donors until after the election, reversing a change implemented by the NDP in 2018. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has opposed the change.

Should city council continue to have a code of conduct?

Yes, but the current one is not doing the job

  • Yes, and the current one is working fine
  • Yes, but the current one is not doing the job
  • No, elections are a sufficient mechanism for governing councillors' conduct
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In 2018, city council adopted a Council Code of Conduct, creating a process for complaints to be filed and investigated. Since then, the integrity commissioner has found one councillor in violation of the code three times, but council has never reached the requisite two-thirds majority to censure him.

Do referendum questions and Senate votes belong on municipal ballots?

No

  • Yes
  • No
  • I accept the principle but object to some or all of these additions
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The provincial government has indicated that two referendum questions (on equalization and daylight saving time) and a vote to choose Alberta's Senate nominees will be added to the municipal ballot in October. AUMA president Barry Morishita has expressed concerns that these questions may distract from local issues.


Quality of life

How much should the city spend to help the arts sector recover from the pandemic?

Current support is sufficient

  • It should spend more
  • Current support is sufficient
  • It should spend less
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The Edmonton Arts Council launched the Creators' Reserve grant program in April 2020 to support artists with funding of $500,000 drawn from existing budgets. In July 2021, city council approved the $1 million 2021 Festivals & Events COVID-19 Recovery Grant Program to help encourage the return of festivals and events.

Should the city have more permanent public washrooms?

Yes, we need more permanent public washrooms

  • Yes, we need more permanent public washrooms
  • No, we have enough
  • No, we shouldn't have any
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The City is working on a citywide public washroom strategy which aims to develop more permanent public washrooms like the one on Whyte Avenue at Gateway Boulevard. Unstaffed facilities cost about $8,000 per month to maintain. A six-month pilot project to staff the Whyte Avenue washrooms cost about $20,000 per month. The city suggests that staffing public washrooms may improve safety and cleanliness.

Do you support the city's current approach to upholding the spirit and specifics of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action?

Yes, I support the current approach

  • Yes, I support the current approach
  • No, the city should do more
  • No, the city is doing more than it should
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 calls to action to recognize the harm done by residential schools and repair the damage that continues to this day. As part of its response, the City of Edmonton developed an Indigenous Framework to support and build strong relationships with Indigenous Peoples, which was endorsed by city council in February.


Roads

What should the residential speed limit be?

40 km/h

  • 30 km/h
  • 40 km/h
  • 50 km/h
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In November 2020, city council approved lowering the default residential speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h as of Aug. 6. Paths for People has argued that 30 km/h would be better to decrease the severity of collisions. A community group also proposed lowering the residential speed limit to 30 km/h at least in the Core Zone, which includes Edmonton's mature neighbourhoods. Opponents of lowering speed limits cited motorists' lost time and the costs of enforcement measures.

Where do you stand on accommodating active transportation?

The city should make roads more accessible to active transportation

  • The city should make roads more accessible to active transportation
  • The city has enough infrastructure for active transportation
  • The city should make roads less accessible to active transportation
  • I don't have a position on this issue

City council has been working to accommodate active transportation modes, including cycling, walking, and rolling. The City Plan calls for more infrastructure for active transportation which could mean sacrificing driving lanes and/or parking. The goal is to increase trips made via active transportation and transit from 23% (in 2020) to 50%.

Do you support the expansion of major roads?

I support these expansions

  • I support these expansions
  • I oppose these expansions, primarily on financial grounds
  • I oppose these expansions, primarily on environmental grounds
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion project, expected to be complete by the end of 2027, will cost more than $1 billion with about half coming from the city's budget. Nearly $2 billion will be spent in the current budget cycle on roads, including neighbourhood renewal, the Terwillegar Drive Expansion, and other projects.


Transit

What should be done about transit fares?

Fares should go up as planned

  • Fares should decrease
  • Fares should be frozen where they are
  • Fares should go up as planned
  • I don't have a position on this issue

City council decided in April to leave cash fares for transit at $3.50 until February 2022, when fares are to go up to $4 and "smart fare" cards will be introduced with a $3 flat rate. Transit revenues currently cover about 45% of operating costs for the service. Lowering fares could mean a reduction in service, an increase in taxes, or both.

What is your position on the bus network redesign?

It sacrificed too much coverage to provide more frequency

  • It struck the right balance between frequency and coverage
  • It sacrificed too much coverage to provide more frequency
  • The city should have taken money from something else to increase frequency and maintain coverage
  • Regardless of how it is configured, the city spends too much on transit
  • I don't have a position on this issue

In April, Edmonton Transit launched its first bus network redesign in more than 20 years, removing some less-busy routes to increase frequency on higher-demand routes. It also introduced an on-demand shuttle service to designated transit hubs in 37 communities that don't have regular bus routes.

What should be done about LRT expansion?

Continue with the current plan

  • Divert budget from other projects to build the LRT more quickly
  • Continue with the current plan
  • Pause LRT construction and consider bus rapid transit instead
  • Pause LRT construction and explore more future-focused technology like autonomous vehicle networks
  • I don't have a position on this issue

The City of Edmonton's LRT Network Plan, adopted in 2009, consists of five lines extending in all directions. There are currently about $5.8 billion worth of LRT expansion projects underway on three of those lines; nothing has been done beyond the strategy phase on the other two.


Pitch

Here is the pitch that Sarah Hamilton shared:

“I've been the City Councillor for Ward 5 over the past four years and have dedicated myself to building a safer, stronger and more prosperous Edmonton. I was born and raised in Edmonton and have worked as an educator, journalist, and started my own business. Over the past four years, I've made west Edmonton streets safer, kept spending in check, and strengthened our local economy. In the next four years, I will continue to work hard to build a city the next generation of Edmontonians can be proud to live in.”

Learn more at www.sarahhamilton.ca