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On the phone with political upstart Dawn Edith Penney, District 11

“I'm going into politics to change the game, because we’ve had long enough of people playing the game.”

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Dawn Edith Penney faced a tough challenge in the last election for District 11 (Spryfield–Sambro Loop–Prospect Road). She was the only candidate to go up against perennial incumbent Steve Adams, Halifax’s longest-serving councillor, winner of every municipal election since 1991. And sure enough, she lost in 2016.

This election the story is a lot different. Adams announced his retirement a year ago, opening the field early enough that 12 candidates joined the race—tying District 4 as the most contentious ballot of 2020. One of these dozen candidates will be the area’s new councillor, that’s for sure. However, Penney alone in this group can say that she stood for District 11 last election. And not only that, but she came in second place.

A personal care worker and local music scene volunteer, Penney is running because she really wants to represent the people of her district to city hall. “That is my goal, to bring back the voice of the people to the government through democracy, which is a huge passion of mine.”

Penney, 32, first dipped her toe into city politics in 2012, when she ran for an HRM school board trustee position. Although she lost, the experience stoked rather than extinguished her fire for politics, leading to her run against Adams in 2016. Since then, she says she's even more committed to making positive change in the district.

Penney has several issues that she feels need to be prioritized, and at the top of that list is affordable housing. “I believe everyone should have access to shelter,” she says. “Putting an end to homelessness is very important to me.”

She also wants to bring attention to areas of the municipality that have polluted drinking water, such as Harrietsfield, which has been dealing with contaminated water issues for at least 30 years. HRM has to recognize that “it’s not OK to be without safe drinking water,” Penney says.

She places emphasis on the lack of road safety in the area, suggesting traffic cameras should be put in school zones. She also points out that the area is lacking Halifax Transit services, saying it’s not fair that Sambro Loop and Protect Road are without transit even though they pay for the infrastructure through taxes.

As a self-described utilitarian, she's even ready to deal with contentious issues like defunding the police. Penney says she tends to go for the greatest result for the greatest amount of people, with the least amount of negative impact on the last amount of people—an ideology she can apply to tough problems, listening to people in order to put them at the forefront of her decision making.

Penney says she’s just the kind of active listener council needs, and she’s ready to offer the necessary leadership required for the district. “I’ve always said that I'm going into politics to change the game, because we’ve had long enough of people playing the game.”

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