Kris Desjarlais - 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 Kris Desjarlais' 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?

I fully support the inclusion of community benefit clauses when we consider contracts and purchases. Return on investment has had such a narrow linear definition that we often fail to recognize the tangible benefits beyond the short term gain of lower initial cost. Numerous studies point to the economic and social benefits of local procurement: higher recirculation of revenues, hiring local labour, more money to local charities, distributing more profits locally, and purchasing more goods and services from other local suppliers.  I think it’s important that councillors and city administrators think laterally and holistically when it comes to understanding beneficial outcomes of investments and purchases. We need a shift in thinking, but as I like to say, shift happens. I will do my part to make this a reality.

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?

As a member of the community advisory board for homelessness and the aboriginal advisory board for homelessness, I know first hand how dire the affordable housing situation is, not only in Brandon, but throughout Canada.  All 4 of these options are a necessary component of any affordable housing strategy.  A (TIF’s) and B (Cost offset grants) are the least likely to receive resistance from developers and the business community.   While I support inclusionary zoning I’m not entirely sold on it being a necessity for all neighbourhoods.  In smaller cities such as Brandon, most of the available social services are centrally located, so proximity to available resources must be a part of the equation.  There have also been some cases where cities have required inclusionary zoning and yet no improvement in the affordable housing situation was observed. That being said, if we decide not to require affordable housing in a certain development, then an equivalent amount of money needs to be set aside to buy that amount of land for affordable housing in another area of the city.

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?

Yes.  I’m often surprised at the lack of knowledge many city councilors have in regard to the work being done by community stakeholders and non-profits to address the many facets of poverty. The poverty committee should be commended for the development of a food charter, but now we need to take action. Food security programs could easily be harmonized with the city taking a lead in the organization of these efforts (community garden expansion, fruit share programs, and the good food box initiative to name a few).  Councillors should familiarize themselves with HPS strategies, especially the housing first model, which will make up 60% of the available federal funding by 2016. Job training and professional development opportunities should be shared across sectors and we should actively seek out partnerships to fund training and education programs.  I believe we sell ourselves short when a large percentage of society is unable to share their potential talents with the rest of us.  I would love to belong to a council that recognizes the social and economic benefits of eliminating poverty.