Matthew Hayes won’t be quitting his day job anytime soon, even if he’s elected mayor.
The St. Thomas University sociology professor and community activist said he’s vying for the top job on council because he wants to talk about “citywide” issues that are being ignored.
“I was approached and I thought this would be a really interesting opportunity to explore ways to confront some of the challenges that our generation faces.”
Public transportation is one of the main issues Hayes wants to address. He said Fredericton’s bus system needs improvement because it’s inconvenient for both students and residents living off the main route.
“It’s totally impractical and I think it’s badly designed…right now, the idea of the bus system is it should cover as much of the city as possible and that’s great, but I think that we also need to make it practical for people to use.”
Hayes will have his work cut out for him. He’s up against veteran politician, Brad Woodside, who’s been mayor since 1986.
The professor said he has nothing against Woodside, but feels the city needs a new face in politics.
“He’s left his mark on the city and I think he’s made a definite contribution, but I think that we need to address other issues and I think we need some new ideas.”
Some of those new ideas include expanding the city’s recycling system to include glass and electronics. Fredericton is often considered a “green” city, but Hayes said more needs to be done to make it truly sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“The places where you act on this are not simply in terms of international agreements, but at the local level.”
When creating a platform, Hayes sat down with people from the city to decide what changes the city needed.
“It’s a bunch of people who are involved in different community organizations who care about the environment, who care about the city, who care about different issues and who think that the place to act is at the municipal level.”
Hayes is no stranger to political activism. He was involved in last year’s Occupy movement and said he wants to address issues that aren’t being talked about.
“It’s important that social movements also take the time to walk through the institutions, to challenge what’s going on within the democratic institutions, whether it’s the province or the country or here.”
Hayes said going from professor to politician isn’t as big of a leap as one might expect. He said he has learned to communicate with people through teaching.
“One of the challenges for professors is to communicate issues or material that has sometimes been discussed by….taking difficult ideas and relaying them to the public.”
He wants to reach out to everyone in the city, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
“I’m not interested in ideologies, I’m interested in solving people’s problems.”
With files from Alyssa Mosher.