Joshua Wolchansky
Edmonton Elections

Getting to know Joshua Wolchansky | Candidate for ward O-day’min

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LCCMedia is in the process of getting to know candidates of the council elections.  We are grateful to Joshua Wolchansky for featuring with us.

 

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a passionate Edmontonian who was raised to take care of my community. I grew up in Capilano, and went to school at Victoria School of the Arts from grades six to twelve. I now work downtown, teach in Queen Mary Park, and live in Oliver. You can usually spot me either riding my bike, on a patio with a beer in hand, or taking in a local show or festival.

Over the last decade, I’ve been working as a public servant for our province, in economic development, international relations, and environmental protection. I volunteer on the board of the Fruit Loop Society of Alberta, raising funds in our community for local nonprofits and charities by partnering with the hospitality and live entertainment sectors. We’ve supported organizations like HIV Edmonton, the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, and the Edmonton Two Spirit Society, to name a few.

Jpshua Wolchansky
Joshua Wolchansky
| Candidate ward O’Day Min

I am a performing artist by trade, a ballet and contemporary dancer, and now teach adults at a local studio. I also produce and consult various events and festivals with local performance-based groups. Edmonton’s arts and culture scene is world-class, and I’m committed to investing in our artists and arts organizations.

I’m passionate about building connections. I bring people together, to collaborate and build a better tomorrow. I’m asking for your support in using my skills as your next Councillor for O-day’min, the heart of our city.

 

Why politics?

I’ve always been fascinated with politics. Policy-makers have the tools to directly improve peoples’ lives and to create opportunities. 

To understand why I’m running, you have to understand my upbringing. I was raised by three generations of incredibly strong women in a single house – my grandmother, my single mother, and my big sister. Growing up during the Klein years, we didn’t have social programs like child care for my sister and I, or job training for my mom. My mother was suddenly a single parent who felt the devastating effects of being left without government support. I know there are many people facing similar situations today that don’t have a safety net. I’m committed to ensuring that every Edmontonian feels supported and connected with opportunities to build their better tomorrow.

 

Why are you running for council? What are your top priorities?

The pandemic hit our communities hard. Downtown is struggling, our friends and neighbours have lost work and have moved away. In seeing how the last year has affected our people, I am saddened and frustrated that Council spent their time on petty infighting, senseless grandstanding and a deepening dangerous them vs us dynamic. We can’t have a Councillor who will let their ego be a priority – Edmontonians deserve better. We need a Councillor who will collaborate to solve problems. 

Aftering working alongside Edmonton City-Centre MLA David Shepherd on a number of different issues, I am proud to have his endorsement and support in this campaign. I am inspired by David’s style of collaboration, community presence, and support for local organizations in building a better tomorrow.

 

My career has been based on collaboration. With my experience as a public servant and a community builder, I have the skills to work with my colleagues on Council to:

  1. Address the social and housing crises,
  2. Reignite the downtown core,
  3. Tackle climate change, and
  4. Invest in our neighbourhoods so you can focus on living your life to the fullest.

 

Can you describe your plan to tackle drug addiction and homelessness?

 

The housing and drug crises are my top priority. I am a housing first advocate, and believe we need to take it further than just housing. Let’s invest in social services and programs like jobs and skills training, financial literacy programs, mental health supports, and harm reduction. It’s about putting people first, and building a framework to keep folks connected with a sense of community, purpose, and opportunity.

 

We need to recognize that the housing and addictions crises and the work to further the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are intricately linked. Housing insecurity and addiction disproportionately affect Indigenous communities. Council can invest in organizations like Niginan Developments to bolster community-centred social services in a culturally appropriate way. We need to acknowledge the trauma caused by generations of colonial violence, and work to build trust with our Indigenous communities.

 

We need to invest in a holistic dispatch service – this would deploy the appropriate response to incoming calls. Too often, we deploy enforcement (police, peace officers, or park rangers) to calls that need a social service or mental health response.

 

In order to address the drug addiction crisis, we need to evolve the conversation from abstinence to harm reduction. I have called on the Province to invest in supervised consumption and harm reduction, and to investigate safe supply policies to address the opioid epidemic. Four Albertans are dying each day from drug poisoning. From an individual perspective, we can all carry Naloxone, a life-saving treatment that pauses the effects of opioid receptors in the brain. In 2018, the Fruit Loop Society of Alberta partnered with local organizations to host community Naloxone training sessions. To this day, I don’t leave the house without my Naloxone kit.

 

Let’s take care of our neighbours. It’s the most Edmonton thing we can do.

 

How important is climate change and what will you do to make sure climate justice is at the forefront?

 

With my experience in environmental protection, I am fiercely passionate about tackling climate change. While we need to focus on reducing our carbon footprint through initiatives like electrifying the ETS fleet and completing O-day’min’s bike lane network, we can take things further. 

 

We need to build our city to withstand the climate challenges on the horizon. Our winters will get colder, our summers will get hotter and drier. Let’s build using sustainable materials, and invest in high-quality infrastructure products that can withstand these changes so we don’t have to pay triple or quadruple in repairs when cheaper infrastructure fails. We can’t cut corners on climate resiliency. 

 

In addition to building our city using sustainable materials, I have proposed we introduce a River Valley Ambassador (RVA) program, that focuses on environmental interpretation and ecological recreation. Let’s develop programs that promote the enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of our River Valley, including traditional land uses, Indigenous history, wildlife protection, and naturalization benefits.

 

While not the sexiest topic, we also need to talk about drainage in our ward. O-day’min’s drainage infrastructure is sorely outdated and operating beyond its capacity, leading to what I call the smell of the Edmonton and, during heavy rainfall, the lakes of O-day’min where storm drains simply can’t keep up. We need to keep our ward above water.

What books inform your knowledge?  What do you do for your mental health?

I grew up with my nose constantly in a book. It didn’t even matter what I was reading. From Austen to Tolstoy, Orwell to Sun Tzu, I craved words. There’s something magical about losing yourself in a good book.

 

A book I keep coming back to is The Giver by Lois Lowry, a dystopian novel I first read in junior high. It’s a short read, but the message of learning from human memory and peoples’ lived experience is especially important in our current society.

 

Reading is a great way to support mental health. As we recover from the pandemic, I will be an active voice promoting mental health on Council.

 

My own mental health has been something I’ve recently learned to monitor and take care of. Like so many in our community, I have experienced times feeling depressed, isolated, and overwhelmed. I’ve often suffered in silence, because I felt that admitting I needed help was admitting weakness. We need to take down the stigma of talking about mental health, and centreing community and self care. 

 

If I need to think something through or take a quick pause from the hullabaloo of life, I’ll go for a run, a bike ride, or take a dance class. That quick hit of endorphins with a killer playlist grounds me and motivates me to focus on my work. 

 

If I’ve been feeling isolated or alone, I’ll call a family member or a friend and invite them over for dinner. I love to cook and host – there’s something about the sound of laughter filling my home that gives me a sense of connection with those I love. 

 

Share a quote or a poem that means something to you.

There have been a couple that have resonated with me that I’d love to share with you.

 

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” [translated: We only see things truly with the heart. The essentials are invisible to the eye]. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince.

This quote is from one of my favourite childhood books. It reminds me to always lead from the heart, and to find the good in people. We are often taught that collaboration and empathy are signs of weakness. We can build incredible things if we work together to solve problems. Through empathy, compassion, and inclusion, we can build a better tomorrow. 

 

“I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control my reaction to what happens to me”. 

This quote has kept me mindful to focus on what is within my control. While we can’t control a storm, we can prepare for hard storms through good preparation and planning. Let’s rise to face the challenges of tomorrow by having open conversations about the work we need to do. Let’s get to work, Edmonton. Our communities can’t wait. 

 

Where can we learn more about you?

 

Please head over to JoshuaYEG.ca to learn more about the campaign, or sign up to volunteer, or donate. I’m all about collaboration and would love to hear from you. My socials (instagram, twitter, facebook) are Joshua4YEG – please send me a DM if you have any questions or concerns. 

 

I believe the best way to learn about a candidate is to connect with them directly, to get to know their stance on issues beyond what’s just posted on our socials or websites. Join me at one of our volunteer events, or one of the many public engagements we’ve got planned in the near future!  I can’t wait to spend time with you, and talk about our shared priorities and passion for the community.

 

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