By Aidan Johnson, Councillor for Ward 1

This article is in response to our Jan. 12 editorial “Who represents student at city hall?” and is presented as it was received.

In October 2014, I had the honour of being elected city councillor for Ward 1 (West Hamilton).  Many students voted for me.  I remember those votes every day.  I’ve been able to build a relationship of trust with the student community.  It is a bond that I value.

The primary concerns I hear from students relate to ecology and human rights.  Both spheres of policy are constantly on my mind.  To make a greener, bluer City, I have put wheels in motion to ban sale of bottled water at all municipal sites.  I am also working constantly for deeper protection of Cootes Paradise – the fragile marsh-land that rings campus.  To address climate change, I’ve worked successfully for a $1 billion investment to build light-rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton – a potent alternative to cars.  Our new LRT line will begin at McMaster.

On the human rights front, I have been working with Hamilton’s transgender community to create a Trans and Gender Non-Conformity Protocol.  This policy will help secure the equality rights of trans citizens, student and non-student alike.  I am hopeful for the Protocol’s enactment.  I have also helped secure an investment of $50 million in Hamilton anti-poverty initiatives, which will benefit low-income students.

On January 11, the Sil published an editorial by Scott Hastie, arguing – rightly – that I have work to do, to strengthen my bond with the student community.

The editorial makes several good points.  However, it also makes some points that I take issue with.

Hastie refers to my work to protect Westdale Cinema.  I am advocating for Heritage protection for this beautiful, old building (now for sale).  I have asked Mac to consider partnering for use of Westdale Cinema as a lecture hall, or for other purposes  — e.g. art space, meeting space.

The editorial calls my suggestion that the Cinema be used as lecture hall “an insult to students”.  Hastie’s point is that it’d be hard to get from class at the cinema to a class on campus immediately after.  This is fair.

However, trying to involve Mac in saving the cinema is not “an insult”, to anybody.  The fact that many students enjoy Westdale Cinema is one of the reasons I’m advocating to save it.

Hastie refers to a recent motion passed by Hamilton Council to hire two co-op students as bylaw officers for our Mac neighbourhoods.  Hastie asserts that this decision “deepened the divide between McMaster students and residents”.

But it is not clear how additional enforcement will harm students. Bylaw enforcement targets landlords.  It does not target student tenants. Indeed, I would argue that better bylaw enforcement helps students, as it will create a safer and more hygienic neighbourhood.  It will hold landlords to better account.

On January 12, the Sil published an editorial by Scott Hastie, arguing – rightly – that I have work to do, to strengthen my bond with the student community.

Hastie refers to Council “dragging its heels” on landlord regulation.  This criticism is justified.  In my two years as councillor, I have advocated constantly for landlord licencing.  I am hopeful that we can make real progress on this soon.

Hastie calls for students to become more politically engaged.  I strongly agree with this.  Students are already significant leaders.  Hastie himself is a good example.  It makes sense for all students to become more involved in politics.

Hastie’s editorial offers me a good challenge: “reevaluate the way you consult students”.  I am grateful for this invitation.  I visit campus often.  I meet with students regularly, and have student interns in our Ward 1 office every year.  But I appreciate the need to consult even more.

I am looking forward to further deepening my working relationship both with the whole student community.


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