As part of our ongoing coverage of the 2020 Saskatoon municipal election, CTV News at Five anchor Jeremy Dodge is sitting down with each of the city's six mayoral candidates to discuss why they are running for office and what they plan to do if elected. Here is Jeremy's conversation with Charlie Clark. You can also watch their conversation using the player above.
A handful of people are running against you. Does the number of mayoral candidates say anything to you about how well you performed as mayor?
It’s a democracy and we live in a dynamic and exciting city, so I take it as a good thing that people want to get engaged, that they care about the future of the city and people want to be part of it. It would be worse if no one was interested in the civic election at all and it was a sleeper, so from my point of view I think it’s a good thing for the community to have a good strong election.
Are you happy with the status quo and the progress that has been made over the past four years and do you see a path forward?
There’s no status quo in the way I’m approaching this. We as a city have created 11,900 jobs in the last four years. The rest of the province created zero net new jobs in the last four years, so we are driving the provincial economy even facing some of the economic headwinds that we’re facing and I know the only way to continue to create those news jobs is to be really nimble and create the right conditions in our city to grow the tech sector, to grow more value-added processing jobs, to continue to be a place where people want to move to.
With the pandemic, it’s actually one of the things we have to offer more than ever to the world, because we’re one of the safest places in the world. I believe this can be a strength for us, an attractive place to live in the future. But we have to make sure that we’re being aggressive about creating the conditions for that to happen. I for four years have been building the right partnerships and the right approaches to address the way our systems weren’t working in the past - but four years isn’t enough time to really set ourselves up for true success.
So the next four years is about implementing some of those. We just launched the economic growth strategy with four pillars for how to make sure we're positioning the economy for the future - now is the time for implementation. We just launched the partnership called Sawēyihotān with the provincial government and the Saskatoon Tribal Council to address downtown safety as well as some of the challenges around the Lighthouse. Now is the time to implement those changes. I’ve got the trust and the relationships in place to do it and I really want to have a chance to see it though because I think it will really make a difference in creating a great, strong city, right here in Saskatoon.
The new branch of the Saskatoon Public Library has come up. This is an issue the current council has voted on and it’s moving forward, but your competitors in this race think, maybe that’s not a good way to spend that money considering the current climate with the pandemic. How do you respond?
Citizens need to be clear that any move backwards to rescind the library vote will cost citizens money. It is not a path to a more affordable city. It’ll cost lawsuits - there’s been tens of millions of dollars spent now on the land and design contacts for the library because in good faith the library had a decision from council and they moved ahead. When the library project came to City Council we debated it extensively and city council agreed that the project number, the $132 million budget, was high and so we said, “we’re going to give you $20 million less in our borrowing room to go ahead with the project” and they have gone ahead in good faith.
The project will create 1,000 construction jobs in our community at a time where we badly need jobs. It will create a hub for the community to have access to digital technology at a time when we need to ensure everybody is part of the digital revolution. Going backwards will just bog City Council down in lawsuits, costs, and it will only delay the expenses of the project. My plan and approach to the library is to create jobs and to take the most affordable approach. At this point, doing anything differently will only cost citizens more money and it will not be a path to affordability.
Just so every citizen of Saskatoon understands, the cost to you and your household for the library project … is less than $5 per household per year. Less than $22 over the next five years. Less than a cup of coffee a year. So stopping the library now is not going to have any significant impact on saving you money. But it will kill jobs and create further costs down the road.
Where does the Lighthouse play in downtown revitalization? Do we move it? Do we chop it up, spread it around? What do you think is the future for the Lighthouse?
We have a shared agreement between the Lighthouse, community-based organizations, police and the business community, that the Lighthouse has taken on a huge number of additional services to address some of the really significant challenges we’re seeing around addictions and mental health. And because there’s so much in one place, it’s not working now. It’s creating a lot of pressure and challenges even for the clients who need help because there’s people with very challenging issues all on one site. Some people are living there as residents, some people in temporary shelter, or as part of the meal programs.
What we need to do is to come up with a strategy that takes the pressure off that site. We have already started a two-phase project. One is the Sawēyihotān partnership, which is to more aggressively go to people who are on streets and on sidewalks around the Lighthouse and move them into housing, built on the success we had of the closure of the City Centre Inn and Suites, when there was a successful housing of over 100 people out of the at building into stable housing. And the second phase is called the Wakotawen task force with Paul Merriman, the minister of social services, the police chief, the fire chief, the tribal council chief, the mayor, the health authority and the business community in (Downtown Business Improvement District head) Brent Penner, to come up with a new plan to relocate some parts of the Lighthouse into a new shelter model that would be done in coordination with community organizations and with new partnerships with the tribal council as well.
This is, to me, the best way forward. It’s built on a lot of work that’s already been done, we don’t have to start over to do that. But I believe, by next summer we need to have a different model in place that takes the pressure off, makes sure the downtown is safe.
So Nov. 9, why should people put that check mark next to Charlie Clark?
Well, I’ve got the experience of what it takes to lead the city though the pandemic and I think now is the time to keep that stable, steady leadership in place. And I’m proud of what we accomplished.
Secondly, I’m the only candidate that’s got an actual plan to create jobs. I’ve heard from other candidates how they want to kill jobs in terms of cancelling the library or Bus Rapid Transit - I want to create jobs. We have created 11,900 jobs in my last term, the only new jobs created in Saskatchewan on a net basis. I believe we can create 15,000 jobs in the next term, and that’s my goal, because jobs are so key to the future and we need to make sure everybody is part of that success, from First Nations, immigrants, newcomers, women, jobs that will be shared and opportunity that will be shared. I believe we can create 15,000 jobs by implementing the economic growth strategy.
I also have plans to help us get through a challenging winter. Everybody wants to get their kids away from their devices and we have seniors who are not going to be able to fly south for the winter. I’ve got a strategy with the new fund we’re creating to animate winter and get people out, to activate the community, have community organizations and associations put on rink parties, or have downtown businesses put on activities and events that get people shopping and into businesses. I know how important it’s going to be to make sure that we create as vibrant a city as we can to get through winter and to get through this challenging time. But then build the plan to come out of the pandemic even stronger on the other side.