James O'Connor - Brandon Council Candidate for Rosser

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Staff and members of the Canadian CED Network – Manitoba (CCEDNet-MB) called on 2014 municipal election candidates to share their position on policies that support our collective vision of fairer and stronger local economies, reduced poverty, and more sustainable communities. This is James O'Connor's response:

1. Are you in favour of this policy practice? If yes, how will you work to implement a procurement strategy that takes into account the added economic, social and environmental value of purchasing from businesses that generate community benefit through the inclusion of Community Benefit Clauses in contracts and purchases?

In general terms, I would be in favour of a city procurement process that also considers community benefit. However, as the city is in a tight position financially at the present time, with taxation levels being top of mind for many residents, spending costs must be closely managed.

2. Which planning tools and powers would you ensure the City of Brandon acted upon to encourage the creation and preservation of affordable and social rental housing?

The city needs to find new revenue streams, not find ways to reduce revenue. Housing, specifically social housing, is chiefly a provincial responsibility. The City of Brandon also has precious little land left to “prioritize” for affordable housing. I would like to see the city offer what it can to help the development of housing for low-income people. But council also can’t interfere too much with the type of housing developers wish to build, or we could end up with a development ‘chill’ in the city. One thing I would like to see is more enforcement of existing bylaws and building codes to ensure the housing stock we have for low-income people isn’t unsafe.

3. Are you in favour of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for Brandon with targets and timelines? If yes, how will you partner with community-based organizations and other key stakeholders to create and implement one?

The city has to make sure it doesn’t start to shoulder work that should be done by the province or the federal government. The current homelessness strategies and programs, administered through the Brandon Neighborhood Renewal Corporation, are effective and should continue to receive support. There is talk of expanding a cold-weather homeless shelter in the city. And the results of the Community Food Assessment should be studied closely. But the downtown of Brandon isn’t a “food desert” as is Winnipeg core area.