The only way to know the answers is to ask the questions. And listen carefully to the answers. We’ll each have different questions depending on where you live, what your neighbourhood needs or what you feel would be in the best interest of your ward and your city. The list below may help you decide what you will ask and what you want to hear.
- Do you think our commercial corridors are healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
What To Listen For: First ask yourself what you think could be improved about your main street. Is it safe to walk there? Are businesses thriving? Do people spend time there? If so, then this might be an easy question for your candidate to answer. If not, then think about the small steps that could be taken to make them safer: narrowing lanes of traffic, installing benches, planting trees, hosting pop-up shops in empty storefronts to encourage business activity, etc. Does the candidate mention these sorts of initiatives and understand the importance of a healthy downtown, or does he/she just talk about moving traffic or increasing parking?
- What’s more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial space or rehabbing/expanding/better utilizing our existing homes and storefronts to provide affordable housing?
What To Listen For: You probably have a sense of whether there are underutilized properties that could be renovated or expanded to accommodate more people. Or do we have a housing shortage. What type of housing would be most beneficial to our neighbourhood and our city? Your candidate should respond with a balanced perspective that focuses on the need to better utilize existing buildings and only build when truly necessary with an eye toward adaptability and keeping costs down.
- How do you feel about LRT? Is it our best option to improve transportation in our city?
What To Listen For: Keep an ear out for a candidate who doesn’t just give lip service to transportation options besides cars, but actually demonstrates a familiarity with the issues facing bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians. Also note whether the candidate advocates for an incremental approach to improving transportation options or advocates for top-down megaprojects.
- Some people in our community say that we have traffic problems. What do you think? How would you mitigate those concerns or make our streets safer?
What To Listen For: Chances are the safety concerns are localized but overall, where to you see the problems. What would you do to mitigate the dangers on our streets?.
- Do you think our zoning codes are fair and equitable and do they provide opportunities that attract new enterprises and businesses? If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why?
What To Listen For: Your candidate should demonstrate an awareness that greater zoning flexibility will allow for profitable development, business success and a broadened tax base.
- How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our town?
What To Listen For: Your candidate should be able to genuinely answer this question with specific plans for engaging residents and listening to their concerns. They should genuinely be prepared to listen to the residents and not pay lip service while furthering their own agendas.
- If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
What To Listen For: First off, your candidate should be able to quickly answer this question. If he or she takes a long time to come up with a response, that’s a problem. Second, response should encompass an approach based on incremental and affordable tactics, not going into more debt or expanding the liabilities of your city further.
- What neighborhood do you live in? Why? Are you familiar with this (your) neighbourhood.
What To Listen For: Is your candidate familiar with the ward and its needs? Where he or she lives might tell you that. Where they spend their time will also alert you to whether they will understand the unique needs of each neighbourhood.
- What are your long term objectives? Do you believe that there is a need to change the leadership in each role regularly?
What To Listen For: You will want to hear about the long term objectives for your Ward or City. Not their personal agenda for furthering their political career. Do they think that they should stay in the same position if they are not effectively accomplishing anything or if they have exhausted their vision for the role?
- What are your personal passions and what is the candidate’s opinion on that issue?
What To Listen For: You will want to know if they will advocate for you and help you accomplish your vision. If not, do they have a valid reason why not?