In a municipal election—or in this case, by-election for the vacant District 8 Woodside-Eastern Passage—it all comes down to the doorstep.
On a sunny but several-degrees-subzero Tuesday morning before this Saturday's vote, Beverley Woodfield prepares for
another tour to the community's stoops. "It is tiring," she says, breaking out into a laugh. "But I see it as on-the-job training for the road ahead."
Woodfield is one of four candidates vying for Becky Kent's District 8 seat. (Kent won a provincial by-election to replace the NDP's Kevin Deveaux this past fall.) Brian Birt, David Boyd and Jackie Barkhouse are the other three.
Currently, Woodfield is the deputy leader of the Nova Scotia Green Party. If elected HRM councillor, she'll give up that position but not her "affiliation" with the party. "I'm a Green," she says. "When I was campaigning during the provincial by-election, most of the issues raised on the "doorstep' were municipal issues. It became obvious to me that it would take a municipal councillor to address these issues."
And what are the issues?
"The list is long," Woodfield begins. They include concerns over the environmental impacts (right down to the "offensive odours") from a nearby sewage treatment plant and industries, neighbourhood safety, crosswalk signage and safety, greater support for the area's small and medium businesses as well as community-based volunteer groups, growth in amenities and recreational facilities (particularly for youth), the retreat of larger service-oriented businesses and "infrequent or non-existent" transit services.
For Woodfield, the district is caught in a paradox. While it's not that far from Halifax's urban core, the district's current state of infrastructure doesn't reflect that closeness, she says. What's more, the needs for services and amenities and the development issues facing each of the areas making up District 8 make for a unique challenge. The district covers "semi-rural" Cow Bay (where Woodfield lives), "exploding" Eastern Passage, distinct south and north sides of Woodside, the established (houses are generally 60 years old) neighbourhood of Southdale and the military community of Shearwater.
For candidate Jackie Barkhouse, a long-time educational program assistant working with students with special needs, wants to see improved public transit connections from Woodside-Eastern Passage—with its population of more than 17,000 and counting—to Halifax.
She's witnessed first-hand the travails of the long-distance transit traveller: She has two children in university, one at NSCAD and the other at Mount Saint Vincent. Barkhouse also wants to see connections within and to communities nearby, such as Cole Harbour.
"The connections just aren't there that should be there," she says, adding that anyone who relies on buses to get groceries or get to work will have difficulty. "There needs to be planning to make all areas accessible to each other."
A cyclist, Barkhouse wants to see bike lanes designed, a commonly called-for development—along with improvements to crosswalks and lighting—she's heard from residents. With only community policing outposts serving the area, Barkhouse hopes to help usher a full detachment to Woodside-Eastern Passage.
Both Woodfield and Barkhouse expect, and look forward to, big changes at City Hall in the full election next year. In that sense, they see their by-election as a bellwether. Indeed, it seems they could each bring a progressive viewpoint to council. With only eight (Becky Kent was a ninth) women sitting on a council of 23 members, either of their presences could help correct an imbalance on at least one level of government in Nova Scotia.