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.”
DIVERSITY & CITY COUNCIL
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.