Ali’s platform includes affordable housing and police reform
First-year UVic political science student, Haruun Ali, aims to become Edmonton’s youngest and first ever Black city councillor. At 17 years old, Ali has already begun building his campaign and reaching out to the people in the Edmonton municipal election ward of Ward Papastew, for nomination day on Sept. 20, which will take place just five months after his 18th birthday.
Having grown up in Edmonton, Ali decided to pursue his degree at UVic because he lacked a course requirement for entry at the University of Alberta. Depending on his election success, Ali plans to transfer back to the U of A after this term.
He wants to improve transit inaccessibility and security issues and hopes to ensure Edmonton’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery is rooted in addressing and solving the city’s housing crisis. Ali’s platform aims to address issues like police reform to ensure police are working in the public’s best interest.
In this spirit, Ali wants to see the city divest from policing by reducing the number of military-style weapons that officers have access to, urging the police commission for yearly racial bias and de-escalation training, along with opting for the creation of a civilian police advisory committee.
“Rather than investing funds in crime management, we should be investing funds in crime reduction,” said Ali. Ali wants funds reallocated to establish a mental health crisis team trained specifically for mental health checks and crisis management.
He recognizes that crime reduction doesn’t end with police reform. He cites the continued difficulties of the housing crisis and outdated transit systems as equally important parts of the process. Recent attacks on Muslim women within Edmonton’s transit system have left Ali concerned for his younger sister.
“We need to make sure that everyone in our city feels safe, that is the bare minimum responsibility of city council,” said Ali. Beyond security, Ali thinks the expansion of the LRT (light rail transit) will be a good investment for the city and benefit the student population.
To help crime reduction, Ali emphasized the importance of addressing the housing crisis. Should he be voted to city council, he hopes to set a mandate for 20 per cent of new apartment developments to be affordable housing, not simply in the downtown core, but in all four corners of Edmonton.
When asked how he plans to incorporate his goals within the city budget, Ali claims that population increases in Edmonton could see the current municipal budget of $3.21 billion possibly double. Allocating funds to reforming infrastructure and policy now will help in attracting people to the city in the future.
“We have two options, we can pay for the programs now, sure, they will cost some money, or we can pay down the road, and if we pay down the road we will pay in more ways than we know. Solving the housing crisis will save us money in legal fees and healthcare and the services we have to deliver,” said Ali.
Despite his age, Ali has been involved with politics for a number of years, holding various positions on Edmonton’s Youth Council as a youth-at-large member and a communications chair for the Young Liberals of Canada Alberta, which is affiliated with the federal Liberal party. He was also a volunteer for NDP candidate Thomas Dang’s campaign for the Alberta legislative assembly.
“A lot of people have been telling me I’m too young for city council. I believe […] that we [youth] have a stake in the future,” said Ali.“That’s why our [election laws] allow 18 year olds to have a part in the democratic process.”
Ali sees the lack of youth, women, and BIPOC in Edmonton’s city council as a problem. Voting in youth, more women, and BIPOC are the first steps to address these issues of underrepresentation within Edmonton’s council.
“The job of the city council is to physically represent their constituents. If they’re not representing their constituents how can they say, ‘yeah, we are voicing the concerns of the community.’ You’re not voicing the concerns of the community, you’re voicing the concerns of you,” said Ali.
But despite working against the odds, Ali is hopeful for his campaign.
“If you look at my platform and read it, you won’t see anything radical. This is basic stuff that city managers should have done a while ago but just didn’t.” Ali says that he has met with a majority of city council and that they struck a consensus on the majority of his platform. Despite this, Ali says that in the past Edmonton has had city councilors who don’t speak their minds.
“They’re quiet and that is the problem.” Ali claims that he will be the one to end this silence by speaking his mind and speaking up for youth, students, and the BlPOC population.
“We desperately need more youth at the table […] politics should not be an old boys’ club. It should include youth, it should be diverse, and it should reflect what Canada looks like.”
Edmonton’s city council election will take place on Oct. 18, 2021.