Marie-Soleil Lacoursiere, 33, oversees contract negotiations for Dominion Diamond Ekati Corp., managing a team that procures millions of dollars annually in goods and services for the mine.
She has a degree in business administration, a graduate diploma in operations management and is working on a graduate degree in governance and entrepreneurship in northern and indigenous areas.
Lacoursiere and her common-law partner have five children and after five years in the city, says they are “super-rooted here in Yellowknife.”
She started wondering “how can I put my skills to use in a meaningful way and when I heard about the IserveU platform for electronic democracy, it all lined up.” On IserveU voters can share views and vote on council issues online and the outcome will either inform or bind possible councillors, such as Lacoursiere, who are engaged with the platform.
The issues that piqued her interest were the bicycle lanes and sidewalks on 52nd Avenue and the decision to purchase the 50/50 lot for $1.4 million.
The money spent on 52nd Avenue could have been better used elsewhere, said Lacoursiere, and the decision to buy the 50/50 property without a plan “was unacceptable. Council needs a good mix of people with a solid financial decision-making background. This is something missing.”
What would you like to see happen downtown?
We need to have a long-term strategy for development, not ad hoc. We need to know how much it will cost, and how many years it will take – just like industry. What are the risks and benefits, are people on board, is the best use of their tax dollars.
Maybe a change in the taxation system to incentivize land owners to develop. That’s missing in Yellowknife and why we have so many vacant lots and old buildings that aren’t being used.
What features would you add to downtown?
I would like to see more people living downtown, more businesses downtown. I have friends who own small businesses, and they say there is no affordable space for start-up businesses downtown.
Maybe a place for people who are starting a business. There a lot of super neat things that happen when different businesses are brought together. I would like to see that in a five-year plan.
What about a university, or a campus for Aurora College?
A university is interesting. For northern students, going south is almost a rite of passage. What quality of education could a university based on a small population offer? And how many students would prefer to go south. Other places have expanded colleges. Empowering Aurora College to offer more is a great idea, but I’m not sure what a university could provide.
The new council will be asked to decide on the Canada Winter Games. Do you see opportunities there?
If the citizens are on board, no problem. I would like to see the population have a choice; how much will it cost; will there be new infrastructure and how will it be used after the games? It has to fit within a plan. What are the benefits, the costs?
But what I find is a lack of options. It’s either this way, or nothing. It should option A, B or C, with risks and benefits for each.
I’m super-strong on budgeting for very big figures, and I think of all the current candidates, I’m the one with the most robust experience in handling big numbers. That’s what I would like to do; see a plan and make sure the population is on board with that plan, and have an articulation about what investments we’re going to make, and securing funding from other sources.
The City has spent millions on downtown land. What would you do with it?
We should evaluate our options before we sell it; the City is proposing some neat things – a park, renovation of the mall, a library. If I was on council, I would be pushing for options. Not just this or nothing. And ask the people what they want to see. We’re not just there with our own agendas. We have to represent what people think. That’s why I think IserveU is great. I don’t have to knock on doors to find out what people think. It’s out there for people to say if they care and what they think.
Where do you see city administration fitting in this equation?
Administration is a partner, a support. I want to make sure they deliver what council needs to make decisions. Administration is not an elected body. We have to work together. I’m not a beginner at working together, even when negotiations are conflicted.
In your model, who is directing?
I think it’s working together. Ultimately council is trusted to make the best decisions in the population’s best interests and will follow through on what the population desires. I think the population trusts council to challenge administration when needed to make sure council has the right information. I always caught glimpses that there was a bit of a disconnect. It has to be emphasized; council is elected and we have to work together with administration.