The finish line is in sight—we’re nearing the end of the race for the HRM. This week’s Q&A is with Gerry Walsh, one of five candidates competing for district seven.
The DSU will be hosting voter registration in the SUB on Oct. 15 and 16. The election will be held Oct. 20.
Gerry Walsh on voting:
Dal Gazette: Why do you think the number of people voting in Halifax is down?
Gerry Walsh: Well, on the municipal level about roughly one in three people vote, and in the provincial election it was about 50 per cent and the federal was about 60 per cent. So the more senior levels of government tend to get higher level of votes. That’s a challenge, and I don’t know the answer exactly. I can tell you when I knock on doors, there are a lot of people who want to engage but there are also a lot of people who couldn’t care less. Maybe they’ve just tuned out because they’re disenchanted with governments of all levels and don’t realize how much politics impacts their lives.
DG: How are you trying to get the student vote?
GW: My experience with students is that they are engaged. They are concerned about social issues and some of the broader economic issues and even sometimes political issues, although they’re not necessarily expressed through political parties or even voting. I mean I have three kids, all in their twenties, and it will range into their own interests but they, and their friends and other people their age, are concerned about what’s happening in the world and their country and the city. So for me, it’s through conversation.
For students, the two biggest issues are tuition and debt, which are related. So for me, if you get a good job after graduation you’re not as worried about your debt.
Gerry Walsh on transit and tuition:
DG: What’s your opinion on the HRM’s transit system?
GW: Broken and needs to be fixed. I know that we have among the lowest ridership per capita in the country so the question is why. Why aren’t people taking the bus? I don’t know the solution yet, but I know there’s a problem. At people’s doors, it keeps coming up. I’ve spoken with bus drivers, one who had what I thought were amazing ideas on issues like getting buses from suburban to urban areas but no one higher up will listen to him. To me, why aren’t they listening to the people who are the front line workers who probably know the answers to all their questions?
People expect councillors or managers to have all the answers but no. I’ve learned over the years that if you ask good questions and really listen to the answers until you have a good understanding, you can resolve almost anything.
DG: Tuition: we know it’s provincial, but it affects your constituents. So?
GW: Job creation. I think philosophically, education should be a right. If you look at Quebec and what’s gone on for the past year or so, people say, ‘Oh, well they still have the lowest tuition rates in Canada, what are they complaining about,’ but the reality is that Quebecers were brought up thinking that they had a right to affordable education and I understand that point. It’s about the same in Newfoundland. So I think our future economic success as a country, and in our own province, is through better educating people.
From the jobs point of view, Halifax can actually play a key role in making our city business friendly. So whether it’s through lower taxation or supporting local businesses in some fashion to get them to hire students here, there’s a lot the municipal government can do to help in some ways.
Gerry Walsh on the race:
DG: Who is your main competition?
GW: Sue Uteck. And then Waye Mason.
DG: And if you weren’t to win the election, who would you want to win? Which candidate do you feel could achieve much of the same goals you have?
GW: That’s a good question. I thought I would be asked this question sooner but I haven’t been until now. And it would be Waye Mason. The reason behind that is that I am running because I think we need change and Sue Uteck has been in for three terms and over those three terms we’ve had stadium debacles, sponsorship debacles, a transit strike. And so, both Waye and I are running on a platform of change.
I tell people, as they’re thinking about the candidates on the way to the booth, that if you’re happy with things the way they are, vote for Sue Uteck; vote for the status quo. But if you’re not happy and want change, who do you have? Me and Waye, and the Dawgfather, and Mike MacDonnell. Options.
DG: Any closing remarks?
GW: My approach would be much more analytical than impulsive, more deliberate in my decision making, and I find that this current council’s style is to—with little information—have strongly held opinions and that’s not at all my style.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.