Talking Priorities: Sheilagh O’Leary on Running For Deputy Mayor

O’Leary says that public transit systems in cities all over the country have fee exemptions in place for people in low-income brackets, and she would like to see similar programs in St. John’s.

St. John’s City Councillor Sheilagh O’Leary is running for deputy mayor in the 2017 municipal election happening this September.

“Municipal government is a very exciting place to be…it’s a very boots on the ground place, where you can make decisions that immediately impact people’s lives in a positive way” O’Leary says.

O’Leary sees deputy mayor as a very proactive leadership role that would allow her to bring a broader vision to issues the City faces.

She is eager to continue improving City policies concerning heritage, and arts and culture. She would also like to see a reduction in red tape for small businesses in St. John’s. She is especially passionate about environmental sustainability in the City and the need for more diverse representation on City Council.


In addition to raising concerns and successfully banning the use of cosmetic pesticides in the City, O’Leary has been advocating for a plastic bag ban.

“The plastic bag ban is a province-wide effort but as the capital city we have a responsibility to play a leadership role with this issue.” O’Leary said.

She has also been working with outside organizations to lobby for tree development regulations in the City. These regulations would prevent developers from clear cutting trees without re-planting.

“Not only does it deal with the beautification of the City but it actually plays a huge role in preventing flooding, trees obviously absorb water, and their presence is important for preventing flooding” she explained.

For these reasons, O’Leary would like to see the City renew its efforts to develop urban forests, a goal she says has fallen to the wayside in recent years.


As deputy mayor, O’Leary would continue to work on making the City’s public transit system more accessible. An issue that is important to her for both environmental and socio-economic reasons.

“I was the only one who voted against the 2017 City budget, I could not in good conscious vote for that budget because it placed extra fees on transit users” O’Leary said.

O’Leary says that public transit systems in cities all over the country have fee exemptions in place for people in low-income brackets, and she would like to see similar programs in St. John’s.

“This is a really important issue, not only does it make public transit more affordable and accessible for everybody, but it also means we’re going to get more cars off the road which is the direction we need to be heading in.”


In the past year, O’Leary has been involved in several initiatives designed to get more women elected in municipal politics.

“The reality is that having just one woman on City Council really does not properly represent the people we’re meant to be representing.” O’Leary said.

She is the co-chair of the provincial chapter of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more women elected in every level of government.

This winter, Equal Voice NL launched a series of campaign schools for women, they hosted sessions all over the province with the goal of getting more women in political seats at the municipal level.

This week, O’Leary and Campaign Organizer Amanda Will are going to lead an information session called “Women in Municipal Politics” in Portugal Cove/St. Phillips where women are invited to ask questions about how to run a campaign and what technical skills are needed to become a city councillor.

“As the only woman on St. John’s City Council this is my own experience I’m talking about, we really need more diversity in municipal government. We need more representation of women, people of colour, and people with disabilities” O’Leary said.

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  • And there you have it. Righteous indignation born of choosing the “right” profession. Good for you buddy. I’m sure the world is in awe of your accomplishments.

  • Great article! Thank you Sheilagh O’ Leary for all of your important work. I’m tired of living in a place that feels like it’s trying to crush marginalized people, the arts and the environment. You have my vote!

    • With her, there will be nothing left for anyone at all after business decides she’s no ally. The arts are not a big ticket economic draw to St John’s and never will be.

      • What else is a draw to St. John’s besides the arts & culture and the natural environment? Also hilarious that you are posting this on the web site of the only arts and culture paper in the province.

        • It’s hilarious that you seem to equate the arts to a vibrant economy, seeing that the first thing I think of when I hear “artist” is “starving”. Artists have never been good stewards of their own finances otherwise they’d have more money instead of relying on meager grants to mostly produce garbage nobody really wants.

          • Sweeping presumptions and “alternative” facts.
            You sir, are an idiot.

          • “the first thing I think of when I hear “artist” is ‘starving'”
            Word association based on a stereotype. This says more about you than them. Luckily artists are more creative.

          • Yup it says I was practical enough to get an education in a high-paying applied science field, which has more than paid for itself, I live debt free, without relying on handouts to support myself. Most of the art made in Newfoundland is just tacky kitsch. Get real. Some of us are sick of supporting the rest of you clowns.

          • Uh oh, you ARE a stereotype! Most of Newfoundland and Labrador’s art isn’t found on a chocolate bar wrapper. Some of it isn’t even about puffins! Try some local theatre, an art opening at an honest-to-goodness gallery, or one of several independent music festivals. If you can’t find anything you like it might be that all the “science” money in the world can’t buy taste. This isn’t even an argument from elitism. Unless you enjoy no art or entertainment THERE IS SOMETHING HERE FOR YOU, you just haven’t found it yet.

  • The main purpose of a public transit system is to get people to work, and Metrobus isn’t adequate. Fee increases are fine IF the extra revenue is used to improve service. Lowering or eliminating fees wont get a single car off the road if the bus service is still crap.

    Go ahead and advocate for more diversity in government, so long as it doesn’t cost any money or involve quotas.

    Reducing “red tape” for small business is a great idea, more power to you on that, but arts and heritage should not be a priority for municipal government.

    Greenspace is good, but plastic bag bans are not, leave that to the private sector.

    I’ll listen to what O’Leary has to say, but I doubt that she will be getting my vote.

  • She needs to put a sock in it. She’s got no business putting her nose in all the places it doesn’t belong.

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