James Kosowan


James Kosowan

Candidate for Ward 6 (Métis)


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Survey Results:


Question 1: What work experience do you have that’s relevant to the role of a Councillor and how do you feel the skills and perspective you have gained will help you in your role as a Councillor?

I have a political science degree from the University of Alberta and worked at City Hall for three years as an executive assistant in the 1990's. I have a very solid understanding of the structure of city governance and how the process works for bringing forward initiatives. I have also been a volunteer at the community league level for two decades, so I am intimately aware of many of the issues communities are dealing with on a regular basis and I will bring that experience to the table when fulfilling my role as councillor.

Question 2: What do you think are the biggest issues affecting your ward are, and how would you approach being their local representative?

The biggest issue facing Ward Métis is affordability. As more and more development is occurring in these core communities, it is making it more expensive to live in these amazing neighbourhoods. Developers are building major infill projects, but City Council seems reluctant or even hostile to the idea of ensuring that developers be required to set aside a small portion of affordable units (say 5%). Moreover, the bar is so low for ensuring developers build enough family units (2 and 3 bedroom) that the housing stock to keep young families is diminishing while the costs are soaring, thus making it prohibitive for young families to even consider residing in these mature neighbourhoods. This has a cascading effect on the viability of schools in the core, while conversely pushing people to the outskirts of the city and the concomitant costs to provide schools, libraries, police, fire, and transit to these areas. I would work to provide incentives for developers to build in areas such as the Northlands site and the Quarters so we start building up areas already well serviced. I would also shift more of the costs of development for suburban sprawl so taxpayers are not footing the bill and people choosing to live in the outlying areas are paying the true costs of these developments.

Question 3: What do you think is the role of a municipal government? Do you think the City does too many things, not enough, or just the right amount?

Cities are complex entities and there are a myriad of competing interests. The role of the city government is to weigh all those competing interests and choose the best course of action in consultation with its citizens. The city does a lot of things well, but there is always room for improvement. The role of council is to be vigilant and ensure taxpayers get good value for their money. Where there are inefficiencies, the city needs to be dogged in rectifying the problems. I would be a councillor who does my homework and ensures transparency and honesty in delivering services to the citizens of Edmonton.

Question 4: Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?

My concern with taxes is that increases above inflation put enormous pressure on people on fixed incomes. I commit to not raising taxes beyond the rate of inflation so as to ensure we continue to deliver high quality services, but we are also living within our means. This may mean putting some projects on hold in order to prevent huge tax increases on any given year.

Question 5: Over the next four years, should the City spend less in absolute terms, increase spending but by less than the rate of inflation and population growth, increase by the rate of inflation and population growth, or increase faster than the rate of inflation and population growth?

City spending should not increase by more than the rate of inflation and population growth.

Question 6: During the introduction of City Charters a few years ago there was a lot of debate about new taxation powers for the big cities. Would you support the City being given any additional taxation powers by the Province? If so, what taxation powers should the City have?

Yes. I would like to see the city receive a portion of the fuel tax that would be dedicated to funding public transit. Transit fares are too high and a fuel tax to support lowering fares would make transit more attractive to a larger segment of the population and allow the city to expand the service to make it more convenient. I also think seniors should get free transit service.

Question 7: The City often claims that they’ve found savings in various budgets, but instead of actually cutting spending, they just put the savings into a reserve account and then spend that money on other things. If there’s money left over at the end of a financial year, do you think that money should be saved up by the City to spend in future years? Or should it be returned automatically to taxpayers the following year through some kind of rebate?

I would support a hybrid of the two. There are always items left off the table at budget time in order to keep tax increases to a minimum. If, at the end of the year there is a surplus, Council should be required to apply half of the surplus to the following year's budget (ultimately lowering taxes) and the other half could be used for priority projects left unfunded from that year's budget.

Question 8: Everyone says they support affordable housing, but what does that term mean for you? Do you think the City should be subsidizing housing for lower-income residents? Or focused on keeping the cost of all housing from getting out of control? Or perhaps some combination of the two? If so, how?

I see affordable housing as a partnership between the city and developers. I would like to see the implementation of a policy that requires developers to build a percentage of affordable units (say 5%) which would be tied to gross income (below 30%). This subsidized housing stock would / could be managed by the developer in the case of the units being rental properties. In the case that the units were sold as condos, 5% of the units would be turned over to the city's housing authority to be managed as subsidized units. This allocation by the developer would serve as a community benefit eligible for tax benefits (similar to a charitable donation) and give them social license to increase density in mature neighbourhoods in consultation with the affected communities.

Question 9: The new Edmonton City Plan focuses on urban development, promoting more density, more transit, and 15-minute communities, but it also restricts new housing development in the outskirts of the City. Are you concerned that this could affect housing affordability in the long-run?

No. I think there need to be restrictions on development at the outskirts of the city in order to make underdeveloped areas of the city more attractive to developers. A case in point would be the Northlands site and the Quarters. These areas are well serviced with transit and roads, but they are competing with cheap land at the outskirts of the city, thus making them less attractive for development. If the land at the outskirts of the city were unavailable, it would encourage developers to begin investing in these core areas. The city should also provide incentives for developers to be creative in building in these core areas, while also shifting more costs onto suburban development to reflect its true impact on the city's finances when all the accompanying services are factored in.

Question 10: What do you think should be the split between greenfield and established community growth for new housing? Should the City have a specific target? Should this be determined by market demand?

I don't know if it makes sense to have a specified target that is rigid and inflexible. Obviously there are boom and bust cycles in housing based on the vicissitudes of the economy. I will say that market demand should not be the only factor, however, and that Council needs to play a role in managing the types of housing and the locations of that housing in order to ensure it meets with the overall objectives of creating a more sustainable and viable city.

Question 11: Oil and gas has been a core part of Edmonton’s economy for a long time, indeed Leduc No. 1 is just a few minutes away, but Council is now actively promoting alternative energy sources. Do you think Council should be working to diversify the economy away from oil and gas and what would that look like?

Yes. The city does need to diversify the economy. This should take many forms. I would like to see the city continue to attract more tech-related businesses. I would also like to see the city become a leader in helping residents and commercial property owners become more energy efficient. I believe that the city should provide tax rebates to residents and businesses that build net-Zero or LEED certified buildings, thus reducing their carbon footprint and making the city more sustainable in the long run.

Question 12: The Valley Line SE LRT has suffered multiple significant delays during its construction. What is your understanding of the reason for these delays, and what would you have done differently to avoid them?

To begin with, I would not have allowed it to be a P3 project. The city has gained expertise in building LRT lines such as the Capital line and the Metro line, so this project could have been more effectively managed by the city in concert with local engineering and construction firms. It would also have given City Council direct control to ensure greater accountability in the event of delays or cost overruns. The City signed away much of its control over the project once the P3 was established and this led to lots of animosity as neighbourhoods were severely impacted during construction with little recourse due to the contractual obligations of the signed P3 agreement.

Question 13: The City has big plans to build multiple future LRT extensions, including the Valley Line West, the Metro Line Northwest, and the Capital Line South. Do you support further LRT expansion in the City or are there better ways to support transportation in the city? If, as a Councillor, you find out that - despite all the previous assurances from the City - there has in fact been another delay or cost overrun for a future LRT line, or for some other major capital project, what would you do?

I am not opposed to extensions to existing lines, but I am adamantly opposed to creating new lines such as a line down Whyte Avenue, for example. I think Bus Rapid Transit is a better alternative, providing more flexibility to transit planners when demographics and advances in technology are constantly in flux. I believe in accountability and the city should assign project managers whose expertise matches the objectives and scale of the projects. If the projects are seriously delayed or experience significant cost overruns, there should be an evaluation process to determine if there was negligence or incompetence. If it is determined that there was gross negligence or incompetence, those individuals should be held accountable and removed.

Question 14: What do you think is the best approach to attract businesses to Edmonton? Direct incentives to specific businesses, paid for by slightly higher taxes, or lower tax rates for all businesses?

I would like the city to be more welcoming to business in terms of improving the permitting and licensing process as a means of attracting entrepreneurs to our city. I think the city should also be trying to become a leader in green technology and help to promote businesses focused on sustainability.

Question 15: Should the City be in the business of operating golf courses, or should they privatize or sell them off? How about garbage collection - half of which is already private - or other services?

No. The golf courses should not be privatized. This will invariably lead to higher green fees and make them less accessible to city residents. Likewise, I do not think garbage collection should be privatized any further than it already has.

Question 16: Should we defund the police? If yes, what exactly does defunding the police mean to you? If not, what should the City do to address both historical and ongoing injustices?

No. The police are an important part of the social fabric of our city and provide invaluable service to the community. The police as an institution are not perfect and they need to continue to improve their relationship with the community, which should entail sensibility training and better awareness of how vulnerable groups in our society are impacted by government policies and the availability of social services.

Question 17: Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?


Question 18: Council recently dropped residential speed limits to 40km/h, do you agree with that decision, and what do you think about the proposal by some to go further and drop it to 30km/h in the future?

Yes. I support the 40 km/h speed limit in residential areas and 30 km/h in school zones. I don't support a further reduction to 30 km/h in all residential areas.

Question 19: Serving as a Councillor you are responsible to btoh your local constituents and every Edmontonian. How would you deal with a situation where you feel that the best interests of your local constituents in your ward conflict with what you feel is the best interests of the City as a whole?

This is too hypothetical to warrant a categorical response. If elected, I would represent my constituents and their best interests, which, I imagine, would align with the best interests of the city in more cases.

Question 20: While the concept of a secret ballot is essential, many of our supporters have told us that they’d like to know the political alignment of their candidates. So, if - and only if - you feel comfortable saying so, who are you voting for in your local ward race and why, and if you are affiliated with any provincial or federal political parties, which ones and why?

I am not publicly endorsing any candidate for mayor. I am also running as an independent and have not received any donations from any corporations or unions. If elected, I will strive to be open-minded and thoughtful, doing my very best to serve my constituents and the city as a whole.