News + Opinion » Opinion

We can encourage diversity and keep democracy

Asking some people not to participate won't tackle institutional racism.


Brenden Sommerhalder is running for regional council in District 8: Halifax Peninsula North. - LENNY MULLINS
  • Brenden Sommerhalder is running for regional council in District 8: Halifax Peninsula North.

On Friday I read a Voice of the City piece by Rhys Alden (“Don’t encourage the edgy, white liberals running for council”). I’m not sure where the strong reaction comes from as Rhys has never met me or attempted to make contact. In the end, the voters will decide, and that’s how our democracy should work. All candidates in our District have run positive campaigns and support each other’s candidacies.

As for my candidacy, my platform contains over 40 positions and ideas across 11 different topics from housing to the environment. I believe it is the most comprehensive among any candidate in our District, and I dare say the most progressive. I have also been most transparent as the only candidate in our District to proactively post my donors online. On the topic of encouraging diverse voices I have proposed real, actionable measures to help create a policy framework that would make the system more likely to produce greater diversity in our decision-making and representation—solutions that would not require that some people refrain from running for election.

Some ideas I have put forward include term limits for Councillors (I have self-imposed a two-term limit on myself if I am elected), which would provide a greater number of opportunities for a greater of number of people to be involved; genuine, active consultation in our municipal governance (more like Between the Bridges,  less like “come to the public meeting or don’t have your say”); and annual measurement of and reporting on the diversity of our municipal workforce, including within senior ranks, and creating accountability for meaningful progress on a regular basis.

I recently announced that if elected I will continue the practice of participatory budgeting (community voting) for discretionary funds in District 8, but create two categories—a category for projects relating to Indigenous Peoples (30 percent of the discretionary budget) and a category for projects relating to African Nova Scotians (an additional 30 percent of the discretionary budget). I’m the only candidate who has written about a proposed solution to help address housing affordability.

Institutional racism and bias are some of our society’s greatest challenges. I don’t believe that the way to tackle these issues is to ask some people not to participate. With a district as large and varied as ours, no one person is representative of the people who live here. Along with being racially diverse, we are Indigenous and immigrants, seniors and students, athletic and living with disabilities, rich and poor. I believe the solution is to make sure we ask the difficult questions of all of our candidates, and to vote for the people that we think are most likely to move forward on the issues that are important to us. Having democratic choice makes that possible.


Voice of the City is a platform for any and all Halifax individuals to share their diverse opinions and writings. The Coast does not necessarily endorse the views of those published. Our editors reserve the right to alter submissions for clarity, length, content and style. Want to appear in this section? Submissions can be sent to

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Add a comment

Remember, it's entirely possible to disagree without spiralling into a thread of negativity and personal attacks. We have the right to remove (and you have the right to report) any comments that go against our policy.

xxx - Deprecated in favor of GTM, above.