Christine Burton is vying to hold on to her council seat in this October’s election, promising to serve as a voice to immigrants and animal lovers across the region if elected.
Burton, along with councilor Colleen Tatum, was elected in the by-election of June 2012, and says she still has much good work to do on council. “There’s an awful lot of work left to do. One year is not really enough time to get up to speed on everything,” Burton says of her decision to run again. “I’ve got a great team to work with – I think previous councils haven’t been as cohesive – and as a result of this real team approach to issues and challenges and opportunities, we’ve actually accomplished a great deal more.”
Burton says that during her first year on council, she was impressed by the vital role the public have on the decision-making process in municipal government. “One thing that struck me the most was how much influence the public can have on council, and on what goes on in the municipality,” Burton says. She adds, “The caveat to that is how many people don’t realize it.”
A key issue in Burton’s campaign this time around is her determination to provide a voice to immigrants and other groups who are not always heard, especially those who cannot vote or are unsure of the political system and its working in Canada.
“[Immigrants and temporary foreign workers] are still citizens of this community, and they can get involved in every issue. I think there’s a little bit of reluctance to do that, because they don’t know the Canadian system well,” Burton says. “If they’re got a concern, they need to know that it’s not dangerous or threatening to raise that concern in a public forum or with a public official – this generally hasn’t been their experience.”
Burton makes reference to the new taxi bylaw as an example of a key stakeholder group who wasn’t effectively engaged. “We did some engagement with taxi drivers before the bylaw, but at the public hearing, we didn’t hear from any drivers. None called to meet with council members, and I think they really generally felt that they didn’t have a voice,” Burton explains. “The taxi drivers I’ve talked to subsequently don’t really understand the bylaw. They’ve relied on other people to tell them what’s in it, and that’s generally not very accurate.”
“We’ve got to be engaging properly with those communities, at the community level,” Burton adds. “We can’t just call an open house and say, ‘Everybody, come tell us what you want.’ We have to understand the culture, build those relationships and that trust, and then they will start to warm up and participate in the process.”
Burton also wants to see council create a official no-kill policy governing Animal Control. Presently, the SPCA holds the municipality’s Animal Control contract, and the shelter itself operates under a no-kill policy, but Burton would like to see this made official in the event that another agency takes over the contract.
“Lots of cities across North America have no-kill policies. It doesn’t mean you have to save every animal at any cost – if there’s too much suffering and we’re not likely to be able to save [an anima], obviously we do the humane thing and put it down,” Burton explains. “But some municipalities have a 72 hour policy; if an animal is not claimed or rescued, it’s euthanized. This is very costly – when you do a straight cost-benefit analysis, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Burton says residents she’s talked to have been very vocal on the issue of an official no-kill policy. “The SPCA has shown that they can manage [Animal Control] well and manage it humanely with a no-kill policy, and the RMWB needs to align with that philosophy,” Burton says. “We want to make sure that message goes out that these are the principles and values of our citizens.”
“We need policies that reflect our values,” she continues. “Sometimes issues like this inspire those kinds of conversations, where we ask, ‘What are our values as a community?’”
Burton also hopes to push the arts higher on council’s agenda. “We’ve been working so hard on building the Arts Council, and on the heels of this, the public art policy, so pretty soon we’ll be able to get public art in our community,” Burton explains. “There’s all sorts of research that shows that if you support and enhance the art in your community, you attract people and you keep them there, because it’s fun and interesting and vibrant.”
“We need that coordinating body that will build the cultural plan and make sure we have the facilities to grow [the arts] in our community,” Burton says.
For more information on Christine Burton’s platform, or to contact her directly, visit her website at www.christineburton.ca.